Saturday, August 30, 2008

Ordinary Radicals

I saw this trailer for an upcoming movie. I am leading a Wednesday Night Bible Study on "The Radical Edge of Jesus" so I can't wait to show it to them.

Regardless of how diverse we are on political and social issues, I do believe there is a movement within contemporary Christianity to reclaim the power of the radical nature of Christ. Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven was "at hand" and among us, and taught us to pray that the kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. This is radical, precisely because it is rooted in the assumption that God's kingdom is breaking into our present reality and transforming it in mysterious and almost subversive ways. Isn't it true that when we live Christ's radical love, it leads us to lay aside many of our cultural assumptions valuing success, achievement, power, and influence?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

How to Make a Difficult Decision

Everything we do in the church must be rooted in the mystery of the incarnation. Christ is present and the Spirit is at work. How do you make a difficult decision? I felt led to write down some notes:

1) With a sense of discernment about God's will for us (this is more important than individual opinions)

2) With a sense of consensus building (this takes time, and does not necessarily mean that all will agree, but that we find a place where it is best to live together on the issue)

3) With a sense of deep respect for our differences (much church conflict is rooted in the assumption that others do, or should, see things like we do)

4) With a sense of "seasoning our speech with salt" (a phrase from Colossians, how we say something is just as important as what we say, we are called to speak the truth in love)

5) With a sense of trusting the process (the journey is often more important than the outcome)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Ahas" from the Academy This Week

It seems I always come home from an Academy experience with a couple of "ahas," insights that God has spoken into the deepest part of me. Here are two for this week.

Spirituality is healing. It is a response to the brokenness we experience in four areas: relationship with God, relationship with ourselves, relationship with others, and relationship with creation. This was a profound insight for me, for this is how I have personally experienced spiritual formation. Grace continually touches the deepest part of who I am. It is not that I was once in the dark night, and now things are better, so I can move on to something else. Rather, spirituality is a lifelong journey of healing through the grace of Christ that will bring me finally into the bare presence of God, as earthly life comes to an end.

Spirituality is waiting. It is about waiting for Christ's birth as Mary waited, and when the Word is born in me, "waiting actively" as it grows into maturity and completion. I need to restore a sense of waiting in my daily quiet time, trusting as I give God time and space to do soul work in me. My daily time with God needs reformation. I need to do less and listen more.

Friday, August 15, 2008

I'm Off to the Academy!

I'm about to attend my first week as a team member of a two-year Academy for Spiritual Formation, meeting at Sinsinawa, Wisconsin. I will serve as Worship Coordinator and I'm so very excited. There is something about leading Academy worship from the piano that fits my spirit like a glove. It is hard to explain, but it's as if the gifts I can humbly offer and all my passions converge into one moment in time.

I am reflecting with deep gratitude on all the Academy has meant in my spiritual journey during this past decade of deepening. I recently past the "10-year anniversary" of some difficult and formative experiences that cracked open the protective shell of my heart and exposed me a deep cavern in my soul, ready for exploration and exposure to the healing, cleansing light of Christ. The Academy came into my life about 1/2 way through that 10-year journey.

I have experienced new life. The Academy gave focus, clarity, and articulation to the rumblings of the heart God had been creating in me. I have discovered that:
  • Christian life (and ministry) is not so much about "doing" but about "being".

  • I am called to become like a tree, planted by streams of flowing water. If I am truly grounded, when heat comes my leaves will stay green, and when drought comes I will not cease to bear fruit.

  • Prayer is not my work, but about allowing God time and space to do "soul work" in me.

  • My lifelong quest is not to perform and function, but to abide in the true vine, so that I bear fruit that will last.

  • All my anxious strivings for success and achievement reflect cultural values I have imposed on the gospel, and I am called to a journey of letting go, living from my center (my true self, the "Christ self" in me).

  • Scripture is a place where I can go to be transformed, and prayer is a place where my spirit can dance.

  • Much of the spiritual journey is a dark night of the soul.

  • Relationships are both my greatest blessing and my deepest struggle. Forgiveness is a continual journey.

  • Christ draws me near in the midst of pain as well as in "mystical moments" of grace.

  • My joy is a choice.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

History Brings a Sense of Perspective

Last week, Sandy and I drove to Franklin, Tennessee and took a tour of Carnton Plantation. It is near the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, a desperate attempt of the confederates to retake Franklin and turn the tide. Some 8,000 to 9,500 died.

We had the most mesmerizing tour guide I've ever heard. He even answered questions poetically. Perhaps for the first time, I felt the cold, entrenched pain of this tragic war that dealt with America's original sin of slavery. In this quiet little community, the clock struck 4:00 on November 30, 1864, and 20,000 gray coats stood against 20,000 blues. There was a knock on the door of the plantation house, and a gray coated gentleman gently stated the non-negotiable request that this house be used as a hospital. The blood stains on the floor remain and remind.

History at times gives me a deep and liberating sense of perspective. We get so upset over such little things. Somebody doesn't like us, or opposes us, and we can't get what we want. Somebody makes our life difficult, or an issue overtakes our consciousness. Jesus said to Martha, "you are anxious about many things," and his words describe us.

Yet nobody is knocking ono our door of my house to take it, because it happens to be in the middle of a bloodbath. None of the things that bother me really matter, compared to the huge events that shape history.

So help me, Lord, to let it all go. Help me, with Paul, to "count it nothing but joy." I am privileged and blessed.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Turnabout is God's Play

"Let the redeemed of the Lord say so." Psalm 107 is one of my favorite psalms because it reminds me, with its rich literary parallels, that it is only because of what God has done in me that I may speak of it. Must we not have gone through the hard journey, and been made new in the midst, in order to be able to articulate the depths and heights of grace?

Those who have gone through the desert wasteland of depression, and God gave a way through, are able to truly give praise. Those who were imprisoned in the darkness of sin, and God granted release, are able to articulate true freedom. Those who have been sick and grieved, and God poured out healing, are able to speak of wholeness in Him. Those who have sailed through the storms and throes of life, and found stillness, are able to truly give thanks.

The psalm closes with a poetic expression of grace, which turns rivers into deserts and also turns deserts into pools of water. It destroys and restores. Turnabout is God's play. Grace works through our ups and downs, and we find voice to speak of God's way through, God's release, God's healing, and God's stillness. Lord, you have given me something to speak, and I am grateful for the journey.