Thursday, June 28, 2012

ordinary

How do you feel about the word ordinary?  What does it do within you?  Ordinary is not the most popular word in the English language.  As a matter of fact it is far from it, though it need not be.  Because the word ordinary comes from the word ordinalis which refers to numbers in a series (ordinal numbers are first, second, third, fourth, etc.) and ultimately comes from the Latin root ordo, from which we get the word order.  So if the word ordinary does not conjure up good images for us, maybe we should look at its origin—its parents if you will—and see how we feel about the word order.  I, for one, was never really drawn to the word ordinary, particularly in my younger days.  Although I’ll have to say that the older I get, the more the word has grown on me in a very good way, especially considering its roots.  I am, however, really drawn to the word order.  There’s just something about it that I like.

When it comes to the church calendar, Ordinary Time—which is the part of the story we find ourselves in at this particular moment—is often viewed in very much the same way.  All of the other seasons have a particular aim, focus, or feast attached to them it seems; making them feel especially significant.  Therefore, when we come to Ordinary Time, it is easy to view it as something lesser or inferior in quality because of its lack of those elements.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  In fact, Ordinary Time is not inferior at all; it is actually quite the opposite.  Ordinary Time is the place in which we live most of our lives; which if for no other reason makes it incredibly significant, in and of itself.  But it is also the season in which we learn the art of loving and following Jesus in the context of our every-day lives; walking with and living for him on a day to day basis.  In the words of Philip Reinders: With all the big holidays and celebrations over, Ordinary Time offers us the space to find our place in God’s story.  We’ve celebrated and taken in the momentous life of Jesus; now we need a long stretch of days to absorb and assimilate it.  In Ordinary Time, we fully take in the gospel, allowing it to take shape in our daily living, making connections between Jesus’ story and our lives”.

Therefore, Ordinary Time is of incredible significance.   For not only is it the largest segment of the liturgical year, but it is also, by its very nature, the season where we learn the significance of taking care to order our lives in certain ways.  In the words of Richard Foster: “We fool ourselves if we think that such a sacramental way of living is automatic.  This kind of living communion does not just fall on our heads.  We must desire it and seek it out.  We must order our lives in particular ways.”  Ordinary Time is the time and the season where we must do just that; where we prayerfully order our lives in ways that create fruitful space for God to move and to work and to act...and that's not just ordinary, it's extraordinary!

Also, if you're looking for some music for the season, here's a fun little discovery...
http://music.ordinarytimemusic.com/

Saturday, June 23, 2012

seeing


“Earth’s crammed with heaven, And every common bush afire with God; But only he who sees, takes off his shoes – The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.”
                                                                                                 – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

turning

How, then, shall we lay hold of that Life and Power, and live the life of prayer without ceasing?  By quiet, persistent practice in turning of all our being, day and night, in prayer and inward worship and surrender, toward Him who calls in the depths of our souls.  Mental habits of inward orientation must be established.  An inner, secret turning to God can be made fairly steady, after weeks and months and years of practice and lapses and failures and returns....Begin now, as you read these words, as you sit in your chair, to offer your whole selves, utterly and in joyful abandon, in quiet, glad surrender to Him who is within.  (A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly)

Turning.  It sounds so simple.  How do I live a life of praying without ceasing?  How do I continually abide in Christ?  By turning...by continually turning my heart, my soul, and my mind, always and again, back to Jesus.  By establishing practices and building habits of inward orientation that will remind and encourage me regularly to turn to Him.  The monks have bells that ring, and call to them throughout the day; calling them back from the places to which their minds and hearts have wandered...back to prayer, to God.  Maybe I need some bells too, or something that serves the same purpose.  Maybe I need to set up reminders in my life and in my days that will help me remember to turn...back to Jesus, to live my life always and everywhere in continual union with Him.  And maybe allowing the word turning to be my companion both this day and this week will be a good place to start.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

parable 2

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins...Ephesians 2:1

It was late afternoon on Christmas Eve and Mike was in Washington D.C. making his final delivery of the day for his small air transport business.  He knew that if he hurried he could make his D.C. delivery and be back in the air in time to get home to Johnson City before his kids went to bed.  He knew it would be pushing it, but after all, it was Christmas Eve.  It was snowing like crazy and the forecast was for more snow overnight, and there was no way he was going to take a chance at being stuck in a strange city on Christmas while his family celebrated without him.  So as soon as his delivery was made, he jumped back in to his airplane and prepared for a quick take off. 
     He was nearing the end of the runway and had just gotten airborne when he realized that something was not right.  The plane was having a problem gaining altitude and was heading straight for a bridge over the Potomac River; one that was filled with rush hour traffic.  Somehow, miraculously, Mike was able to maneuver the small plane in such a way to miss the bridge, but he couldn’t keep it from a nosedive afterwards, straight into the icy river below.  On impact the plane disintegrated into hundreds of pieces as it made a gaping hole in the icy surface of the Potomac.  Mike was helpless; fighting for his life in the icy water as the debris from the plane quickly sank below the surface and out of sight.  He knew with the temperature of the water that he didn’t have long before the river would claim his life as well.
     Bystanders quickly responded and attempted to come to his rescue, but the ice, now shattered by the impact of the plane, was so fragile that no one could get close enough to help.  They were helpless to do anything but watch and pray.  Rescue workers arrived quickly on the scene as Mike was still battling for his life in the icy waters.  Who knew how much longer he could stay afloat?  A rescue helicopter arrived for the airport in a matter of minutes and tried to drop a basket down to him to pull him to safety.  But by now Mike’s hands and arms were too frozen to be able to grasp it.  There was absolutely nothing he could do to save himself.  Time was running out quickly as Mike began to go under the water time after time before he would eventually pop back up to the surface again.  Finally, he had given all he had to give and he went under for the last time.  A collective gasp went up from the bystanders as they figured all hope was lost.
     Suddenly, before anyone really knew what was happening, a figure jumped out of the helicopter and into the icy water…it was one of the rescue crew.  At the risk of his own life he plunged down into the icy depths over and over again as he tried to locate Mike’s body.  He dove down time after time until, at last, he appeared with a lifeless Mike in his arms.  The rescuer, now on the verge of death himself somehow was able, in a valiant act of strength and courage, to miraculously drag Mike’s limp body into the rescue basket.  Then he repeatedly performed CPR, trying to breathe life back into Mike’s lifeless body.  Finally, with his very last breath, the rescuer was able to breathe life back into Mike’s dead body, bringing him to life once again, but at the cost of his own.  The Rescuer had given his dying breath to Mike in order that he might live.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions —it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)


Thursday, June 7, 2012

desperation


(When he saw Jesus, he fell to his knees,
beside himself as he begged…Mark 5:22-23)

desperation
in spite of all the negative press
is actually a good thing
when aimed in the right direction

in fact
desperation is a gift
it establishes such a fruitful posture
usually on our knees

desperation is incredibly unpopular
yet creates rich and fertile soil
for the Spirit to do his work
a rich and life-giving blessing
in an awful and scary disguise

without it
there is no reaching
no grasping wildly for God
and therefore
without it
there is no touch
no transforming encounter

O Lord
how do i live with a spirit of desperation
on a daily basis?
does it always take desperate circumstances
or is it possible
to live with a desperate need for you
even when circumstances are not so dire?

O Lord
i long to be desperate for you
desperate for your love
desperate for your presence
desperate for your  touch
and if it can possibly happen
without desperate circumstances
that would be great:)






Sunday, June 3, 2012

parable

Do you truly love me? (John 21:15, 16, 17)

The first time he saw her was across a bonfire at a friend’s house after a football game.  She was there with a friend of a friend and caught his eye right off the bat.  As a matter of fact, he just couldn’t take his eyes off of her.  It wasn’t just because she was beautiful—which she absolutely was—but it was so much more than that.  It was more of a quality about her: the way she smiled, the way she laughed, the way she carried herself.  She had it, whatever it was.  And whatever it was, it came from somewhere deep within her; almost as if there was an inner well bubbling up from her very heart and soul.  He could see it in everything she did: in the way she listened, and in the way she talked, and in the way she cared for people—treating them as if they were the only person in the world at that moment.  There was just something about her; a depth and beauty that he had never seen in anyone else.

     It took him about thirty minutes, but he finally worked up the nerve to go over and talk to her.  And when he did, it was like talking to someone he had known all of his life, the conversation was so easy and comfortable—so good.  He got her number and asked if he could give her a call sometime, and when she said yes something leapt deep within him.  Well one call led to another, and another, and before he knew it he had asked her out.  Their first date was the most amazing he’d ever had, not so much because of what they did, but because of the way she seemed to bring out the very best in him.  It was almost like he had come home, to a home he had never known before but had been searching for his entire life.  In fact the only word that could come close to describing the way she made him feel was full; she just brought him to life inside.

     Well one date turned into three, and then to five, and before he knew it they had been dating for six months.  It was different than any relationship he’d ever had.  They talked for hours at a time about things that really mattered; no games, no pretense, no drama.  And the most amazing thing was that they were also able to just be together without feeling the need to talk at all; comfortable with just being together in silence.  He had never felt that way with anyone before—much less a girl.  This relationship was just different, in the very best sense of the word.

     One night, as winter was turning to spring, they were lying on the trampoline in her back yard looking up at the stars and enjoying just being together, when she asked him a question: “What do you think it means to be in love?”  The question surprised him with its innocence and honesty.  It wasn’t something that he had not wondered about himself from time to time; especially since he had met her.  For a moment he was silent, not really knowing what to say, until he uttered the classic male response, “Uh, I don’t know.”  He then quickly recovered by adding, “What does it mean to you?”  She thought for a moment, looking far off into the stars, and said, “I think it means that you are willing to give that person, and that person alone, all of you, every bit of yourself, your whole heart—no holding back.  When I tell someone I love them it means that I am committing my entire heart, soul, and life to them completely…forever.  And if they want to be with me, if they are really in love with me, I expect them to do the same.”

     As she spoke, he knew at his core that what she was saying was right and true, it was the kind of love he most deeply longed for and dreamt about, but something about it scared him to death.  Was he really capable of loving someone like that?  Did he really have what it takes?  Was he willing to enter into that type of relationship with someone…forever?  Something in him desperately wanted to believe he could, and something in him wanted to run away.

     Then she turned to him with one of the purest and most innocent looks he had ever seen; so pure and innocent that he knew he was not worthy of it.  And as her eyes looked deeply into his, she uttered the words, “I love you.”  He was in complete shock.  She immediately put her hands to his lips and said, “Don’t say a word.  I don’t want you to say anything right now.  I just wanted you to know how I feel.”

     A few minutes later he was in his car on the way home, trying to process all that had just happened.  It was so confusing, so scary.  He didn’t know what to say or what to do, so he made his typical decision…he did nothing.  He didn’t text.  He didn’t call.  He didn’t go to see her.  He was paralyzed.  Before he knew it a week had gone by and he still hadn’t communicated with her at all.  He just didn’t know what to say, so he said nothing.

     It had now been two weeks since the conversation on the trampoline, and he was out with some friends at an outdoor concert downtown, when he ran into an old girlfriend.  In fact, she was the girl he had been dating before he went to that fateful bonfire.  This old girlfriend was nothing particularly special.  He didn’t love her.  He never had, but she was easy—comfortable to be around and never really demanding anything of him.  From the day he broke up with her she had wanted to get back together; always promising him that if he would start seeing her again she would not require or expect anything of him.  In fact, she would allow him to go wherever he wanted and do whatever he desired…even go out with other girls.  She just wanted to get back together; and told him that again on this night.  So now he had a decision to make: to go with the one that brought him to life like no one ever had but demanded all of his love in return, or go with the one that he didn’t love, but was easy to date and demanded nothing from him.

     A couple more weeks went by and he was sitting at the mall thinking about all that had happened over the past eight months, when suddenly he got a text from her.  It said: “i still luv u.  i can forgive and forget the past, but nothing has changed.  i still want all of you, or nothing at all.  As soon as he finished reading the text he looked up and there she was, standing right in front of him.  She looked deeply into his eyes and asked him THE question, “Do you love me?”

     I would love to tell you what he said to her, but I can’t.  Only you can do that, because he is you.  That’s what a parable is all about—you and God.  The God who is wildly and passionately in love with you, the God that made you for relationship with himself, stands before you this day and asks you that very same question.  Do you truly love me? You are my Beloved, am I yours?  His love is totally free, but loving him back requires all of your heart and soul.  What is your answer?