Saturday, July 27, 2013

another story

The rabbis guide their people with stories; ministers usually guide with ideas and theories.  We need to become storytellers again, and so to multiply our ministry by calling around us the great witnesses who in different ways offer guidance to doubting hearts.
     One of the remarkable qualities of the story is that it creates space.  We can dwell in a story, walk around, find our own place.  The story confronts but does not oppress; the story inspires but does not manipulate.  The story invites us to an encounter, a dialog, a mutual sharing.

     A story that guides is a story that opens a door and offers space in which to search and boundaries to help us find what we seek, but it does not tell us what to do or how to do it.  The story brings us into touch with the vision and so guides us.  Weisel writes, "God made man because he loves stories."  As long as we have stories to tell to each other there is hope. (The Living Reminder by Henri J. M. Nouwen)

This theme continues to pop up everywhere.  Really good stuff.  I had to go back and add it to the post on story from last week.  I love Nouwen's language as he describes the value, role, and function of story in the spiritual life.  It challenges me not only to be living a good story, but telling a good story as well.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

rain

Love to pray.  Feel often during the day the need for prayer, and take trouble to pray.  Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God's gift of himself.  Ask and seek, and your heart will grow big enough to receive him and keep him as your own.

                                                                           ~Mother Teresa



In Knoxville this summer it has been a wet one.  In fact, the rainfall total for the summer thus far is 20.06 inches.  That's a lot of rain!  Especially when you compare it to the average for the entire summer of 11.64.  In June alone we had 10.26 inches, compared to the average of 4.04.  Needless to say, it seems like it's been raining all summer long.  The silver lining is that I can count on one hand the number of times I've had to water my garden.

As I shared in the fall,  (In This Post), I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed.  Last spring when I was building a flower bed in my back yard, I thought through everything in great detail...just about.  The one thing I didn't think about was that the location I planted my garden in was no where near any sort of water supply.  And last summer was nowhere near like this summer.  Last summer we were famine for water rather than feast--we had a bit off a drought you might say.  So, last summer I had to carry bucket, after bucket, after bucket, of water to my little flower garden just to keep things even close to being alive.

Well this year is a whole different story, and in that respect I am grateful.  It made me think back to the whole idea of prayer again.  How some seasons prayer flows so easily, seeming like rain from above, a gift of overflowing abundance.  And some seasons prayer is much more difficult, requiring a great deal of effort, and endurance, and perseverance.  Teresa of Avila wrote a lot about this centuries ago (again, see This Post). 

For most of this summer, my prayer hasn't exactly matched up with this rainy season we've been having here in Knoxville (rain is good in this metaphor:).  It has been mundane, scattered, and sporadic, and if the truth be known...work.  And that is not a bad thing, it is living a particular season and remaining faithful in spite of the conditions; it just seems like I've been carrying the bucket to the creek a lot to draw water.  But in the last few weeks, the skies have opened up, it seems.  And the rain has been pouring down from above...or within...I'm not sure which.  Possibly it has been both.  And I am extraordinarily grateful.  So, even though I'd like to have a little less rain in the month of August for recreational purposes, my garden, and my soul, hopes it just keeps on raining.

Friday, July 19, 2013

good summer reads

If you are looking for a good summer read, there are still a few weeks left.  I've really enjoyed these this summer...

Unwritten by Charles Martin
A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

I'm reading Help, Thanks, Wow by Anne Lamott right now.  Enjoying it so far.

What have you read this summer that you've enjoyed?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

more

That little word seems to be cropping up a lot these days; especially in conversations with friends and fellow journeyers.  It seems we all live with a nagging sense that there is more: more to God, more to relationships, more to life than we are living or experiencing at the moment.  And we all have a deep yearning to know, and to taste, what that more looks (and tastes) like.  Of course this is not a new phenomenon, it has been around since the beginning of time.  But every now and then it breaks through, or bubbles up, in a new and fresh way that leaves us longing deeply for the life we were created for.  The life that echoes the richness and the fullness and the love and the joy of the Trinity itself.

And as we consider this more, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that pursuing this elusive state of being involves us somehow needing to do more.  In fact, when I think about the words more and God, I immediately start thinking about the fact that God wants more from me.  Which is true, but maybe not the deepest longing of God's heart as far as I'm concerned.  Or I start to think that maybe God wants more of me.  Which is still true, and a little more appealing, but still possibly short of God's real desire for me.  What if what God really wants is more for me?  When I think of the more that lurks and lives deepest in my heart and soul, that's the more I dream about.  Because if I get that more, it seems to me that the rest will fall into place.  Could it possibly be true that God's deepest desire is that He wants more for me?  If it is, if that's really the deepest longing of His heart, and if I can possibly convince myself to believe it's true, then the more God gets of me and from me will definitely follow suit. 

What about you?  What's the more you most deeply dream about?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

still chewing

 
I've been thinking a lot about story again lately...about living stories and about telling stories; probably because it seems to be popping up wherever I go.  It's like we are all incredibly unique stories that have been beautifully spoken (or sung, as Lewis so vividly describes in The Magician's Nephew) and written by the Master craftsman; a true wordsmith who uses every word with great care and intention, leaving nothing wasted.  Maybe that's why He calls us His masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10 NLT)!  And, at the very same time, we are also somehow, mysteriously and remarkably, in the process of writing our own story.  I'm not really sure how it all works, but I really like it.  A lot.  It makes me smile inside.  Only God could come up with something as wild and as wonderful as that.  It also made me think about This Post from a year and a half ago; one I really liked at the time and like even more a year and a half later. 
 
And here's some more of the stuff about story that I've been chewing on lately...
 
 
 
 




If I have a hope, it's that God sat over the dark nothing and wrote you and me, specifically, into the story, and put us in with the sunset and the rainstorm as though to say, "Enjoy your place in my story.  The beauty of it means you matter, and you can create within it even as I have created you." (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller)

...there is a knowing I feel that guides me toward better stories, toward being a better character.  I believe there is a Writer outside ourselves, plotting a better story for us, interacting with us, even, and whispering a better story into our consciousness. (A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller)


"You're writing another book about yourself?"  Jordan asked.  He was sitting at the counter in the kitchen eating a bowl of cereal.  He had his laptop open and was choosing the starting lineup for his college fantasy basketball team.  He'd been playing the game for a year and finally had a division one team.  He said he was going to start his best defense, because defense wins championships.
     "I'm not writing a book.  I'm not talking about a book.  I'm talking about me.  I don't think I'm telling a good story."

     "I think you tell good stories.  Lots of people think so."
     "I tell good stories in books.  I don't live good stories."
     Jordan poured more milk in his cereal.  He was looking at me while pouring the milk.  He was squinting his eyes a little and furrowing his brow.  He stopped pouring the milk.  He kept looking at me for ten seconds or more, like he was studying me.
     "You're right," he finally said.  "You aren't living a good story."
     "That's what I was saying."
     "I see," he said.
     "What do I do about that?"
     "You're a writer.  You know what to do."
     "No, I don't."
     Jordan looked at me with his furrowed brow again.  "You put something on the page," he said.  "Your life is a blank page.  You write on it."
(A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller)


     Of the six million species on the planet, only man makes language.  Words.  What's more--in evidence of the Divine--we string these symbols together and then write them down, where they take on a life of their own and breathe outside of us.  Story is the bandage of the broken.  Sutures of the shattered.  The tapestry upon which we write our lives.  Upon which we lay the bodies of the dying and the about-to-come-to-life.  And if it's honest, true, hiding nothing, revealing all, then it is a raging river and those who ride it find they have something to give--that they are not yet empty.
     Critics cry foul, claiming the tongue is a bloody butcher that blasphemes, slices, slanders, and damns--leaving scars, carnage, the broken the beaten.  Admittedly, story is a double-edged scimitar, but the fault lies not in the word but in the hand that wields the pen.  Not all stories spew, cower, and retreat.  Some storm the castle.  Rush in.  Stand between.  Wrap their arms around.  Spill secrets.  Share their shame.  Return.  Stories birth our dreams and feed the one thing that never dies. (Unwritten by Charles Martin)


     "Katie, turn around, walk back through.  Write your own story.  Start with a clean page.  One with no words.  Where the ending, the next turn, next twist, next reveal, next conflict that demands resolution, is unwritten.  And where the resolution is unscripted.  And when you get there, standing in the spotlight on a pedestal made for one, spill your bag of pieces on the stage and tell the world--tell them all the way back in the cheap seats--"This was once me...but it isn't anymore." (Unwritten by Charles Martin)


"When I was young, given my general physical appearance, I was told that I was unbecoming.  Since then, I've tried to unbecome me.  But doing so was like dying every day."  She turned to me.  "I went to bed dead.  Woke up dead.  Never knowing who I saw in the mirror.  Ever fearful of resurrecting someone I can't be."  She shook her head and grabbed my hand.  "Peter...changed that."
     "How so?"
     A confident smile.  "He taught me how to live without a script.  A life where I get to write the words that become me." (Unwritten by Charles Martin)


The rabbis guide their people with stories; ministers usually guide with ideas and theories.  We need to become storytellers again, and so to multiply our ministry by calling around us the great witnesses who in different ways offer guidance to doubting hearts.
     One of the remarkable qualities of the story is that it creates space.  We can dwell in a story, walk around, find our own place.  The story confronts but does not oppress; the story inspires but does not manipulate.  The story invites us to an encounter, a dialog, a mutual sharing.
     A story that guides is a story that opens a door and offers space in which to search and boundaries to help us find what we seek, but it does not tell us what to do or how to do it.  The story brings us into touch with the vision and so guides us.  Weisel writes, "God made man because he loves stories."  As long as we have stories to tell to each other there is hope. (The Living Reminder by Henri J. M. Nouwen)


Bon appetit!!!
    

Sunday, July 7, 2013

stuff i'm chewing on today

To allow one's self to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit one's self to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence.  Frenzy destroys our capacity for peace.  It destroys the fruitfulness of our work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.

                                                                              ~Thomas Merton


Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:15-17)


Unless our identity is hid in God we will never know who we are or what we are to do.  Our first act must be prayer, oratio.  To be human is to pray, to meditate both day and night on the love and activity of God.  We are called to be continuously formed and transformed by the thought of God within us.  Prayer is a disciplined dedication to paying attention.  Without the singleminded attentiveness of prayer we will rarely hear anything worth repeating or catch a vision worth asking anyone else to gaze upon.

                                                                          ~John H. Westerhoff III and John D. Eusden


"You're writing another book about yourself?"  Jordan asked.  He was sitting at the counter in the kitchen eating a bowl of cereal.  He had his laptop open and was choosing the starting lineup for his college fantasy basketball team.  He'd been playing the game for a year and finally had a division one team.  He said he was going to start his best defense, because defense wins championships.
     "I'm not writing a book.  I'm not talking about a book.  I'm talking about me.  I don't think I'm telling a good story."
     "I think you tell good stories.  Lots of people think so."
     "I tell good stories in books.  I don't live good stories."
     Jordan poured more milk in his cereal.  He was looking at me while pouring the milk.  He was squinting his eyes a little and furrowing his brow.  He stopped pouring the milk.  He kept looking at me for ten seconds or more, like he was studying me.
     "You're right," he finally said.  "You aren't living a good story."
     "That's what I was saying."
     "I see," he said.
     "What do I do about that?"
     "You're a writer.  You know what to do."
     "No, I don't."
     Jordan looked at me with his furrowed brow again.  "You put something on the page," he said.  "Your life is a blank page.  You write on it."
(A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

disturbance

     So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.  Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.”
     “Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”
     So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant. (1 Kings 19:19-21)


Slaughter the oxen.  Burn the plowing equipment with fire.  Give the meat to the people.  Wow, I don't know about you, but this is pretty disturbing, disruptive stuff.  Pretty radical.  I mean Elisha didn't just leave his old life behind, he destroyed it, and gave the remnants of it away.  Coming back would never again be a possibility.  His old life was completely gone, the new was all that remained.  And something in me begins to stand on tip toe at the possibility of it all, while another part trembles and cowers in fear.  Because I've come to know and understand that in this mysterious life with God disruption and disturbance, though difficult and chaotic and unsettling, are very, very good things.  Maybe even some of the best of things. 

I actually read these verses a week or two ago and they just won't go away; they've just kind of stuck to me.  Which usually means that God has something specific to say to me through them, if I am willing and courageous enough to listen.  On the surface, the whole scenario at least begs the question: "What about usWhat must we slaughter, or burn, or give away (or all of the above), in response to the call God has on our lives?  What does it look like in our particular context to fully  follow Him?"

John Powell once wrote: "The experience of God touching and involving the human will in search may come to different men in different ways.  There are many avenues of attraction to God.  Some are drawn to him through his beauty, others to his peace, and still others are attracted by his power.  Most men find themselves drawn to God as the source and wellspring of the very meaning of life, the ultimate ground of human existence.  But it may be that the first motion of God within the believer-to-be is one of disturbance.  Sometimes we forget that God comes to us, not only to give us peace but also to disturb us.  He comforts the afflicted and he afflicts the comfortable."

I guess I'm still trying to figure all of that out.  What about you?  What does all of this do within you?  Where are you being disrupted or disturbed?  And is it possible that God has something of Himself he longs to give you in the process?  What things might He be asking you to slaughter, or burn, or give away, in order to know him more deeply and follow him more fully?