Saturday, July 25, 2015

gestation

I have really been captured by a Rilke quote this week.  It has helped me to be really attentive to whatever life God is growing in me these days.  I wonder if sometimes I don't try to rush a process that cannot be rushed, wanting it, whatever it is, to be born before it is ready to come forth.  Anyway, here's the quote:


Everything is gestation and then bringing forth.  To let each impression and each germ of a feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own intelligence, and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity: that alone is living the artist’s life: in understanding as in creating. 
     There is here no measuring with time, no year matters, and ten years are nothing.  Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without the fear that after them may come no summer.  It does come.  But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide, I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: patience is everything! (Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke)


It has caused me to ask myself a few questions this week: What is growing in me these days?  How am I giving it time and space and attention to become whatever it is intended to be?  Will I resist the temptation to rush it from conception to delivery and give it time and space and prayer to grow and develop?

New birth, it seems, cannot be rushed or forced.



Thursday, July 23, 2015

union

This is a piece I wrote about a year and a half ago that seems even more true for me today, and for my desire to be one with Jesus, than it did even when I wrote it.  Funny how God has a way of doing that.  And it might also be because I'm reading Teresa of Avila again (Interior Castle), whose writings inspired the poem to begin with.


     one

full of myself
may it never be
but only you
my dear jesus

as rain falling into a pond
becomes one
no longer any rain
only the pond
as a stream flowing into the sea
becomes one
no longer any stream
only the sea
as light coming into a room
from two windows
becomes one
no longer windows
only light

may i melt into you
so that there is
no more me
but only you
my beloved jesus


* Note: This poem and others are found in Pieces II, which I just recently overhauled and added some fun stuff to.  Hit the link if you are interested.  I don't think many folks know about that book, but there are a lot of Pieces in there that I love.  Thanks be to God!  And thanks be to you for being on this journey with me.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

learning to gaze

Last spring I had a dear friend come to town to spend some time helping me and a group of my friends here in Knoxville reflect on and discuss the idea of cultivating intimacy in our relationship with Jesus.  The discussion took place in two parts.  First, with a large group of people on a Friday night in a kind of "question and answer" format.  And then, for a good bit of the next day, in a smaller group context that was much more quiet and reflective. 

During the Friday night session, as people were just beginning to arrive at the venue, I was standing with my friend talking about our hopes for the evening ahead, when all of the sudden my wife walked into the room.  Now, I'll have to admit that often times I catch myself just staring at her, amazed at who she is and what she means to me.  Well, apparently this was one of those times because my friend stopped talking and just began to look at me with a big grin on his face.  When I finally noticed that he was not talking anymore, but was watching me and my reaction to my wife walking into the room, I began to grin myself and replied, "What?"  I knew he had caught me.

"Oh nothing," he said, "I was just enjoying the way you look at your wife.  As a matter of fact, you weren't just looking at her, it was something way more than that."  And indeed it was.

As we continued standing there together we both just smiled.  Because that look, and the heart behind it, was the very thing we were going to be talking about in the hours and minutes that followed.  That look is the stuff intimacy is made of.  That look is the way God looks at us; and the way he longs for us to look back at him.  In fact, it is more than a look, it is a gaze.  How can we learn to gaze at God, and be gazed on by him?  If we can learn the answer to that question, I have a suspicion that intimacy between us will never be an issue again.

If you look up the word gaze in the dictionary you will find that it means to look intently and longingly, with great pleasure and wonder.  It is the kind of look David talked about in Psalm 27:4 when he said, "One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in his temple."  If we could only learn to gaze at Jesus, and watch Jesus as he gazes at us, I believe it would change everything about our relationship with him.

But how do we learn to do that?  The best answer I can give goes right back to that room as my wife walked in.  Maybe the best thing I can do is to think about the way(s) I look at my wife; how I think about her, what it does to my heart within me, and how it makes me feel about her.  When I gaze at Carol it can be in so many different ways.  At times I catch myself gazing at her as a wife and being overwhelmed with how incredible a wife she really is--especially being married to a guy like me.  She is so loving and gentle and kind.  I'm not sure I have ever met a person as genuinely kind as she is.  At other times I can find myself gazing at her as a mother, being overcome with how well she loves and cares for and prays for and sacrifices for our kids.  At times I gaze at her as a friend, loving how easily and often she laughs and smiles, how safe and free the space she offers me is, how easy she is to be with and how delightful she is to be around, as well as how she is so "for me" in everything I do.  And the list just goes on and on.  I could just as easily tell you how I gaze at her as a lover (with beauty beyond all I have ever seen...but we will keep this G-rated), or as a worker, or as a daughter, or as a sister--all of which she is incredible at!

All of this offers me a great picture of what it means to gaze at Jesus.  I need to spend time gazing at Jesus in the same way: Jesus as friend, Jesus as brother, Jesus as teacher, Jesus as lover.  Not to mention Jesus as Savior, Jesus as Redeemer, Jesus as Suffering Servant, or Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords.  Today, for example, my reading for the day was in John 10 and I had the opportunity to gaze at Jesus as the Good Shepherd; tenderly loving, gently leading, faithfully providing and protecting, constantly calling my name as he leads and guides.  The possibilities are endless.  The point is that if we want true intimacy with Jesus, I think that we will have to become good at the art of gazing.  For when we do, and we get good at the art of watching him gaze at us in return, intimacy will be the natural result.

So, by all means, may we do exactly what David writes about in Psalm 27 and constantly make space and time to gaze on the beauty of the Lord.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

just a beginner

"What might it mean to live fully and freely in the life of the Trinity, knowing and loving God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as they know and love each other?"

                                                                                                    ~R. Thomas Ashbrook


"The wiles of the devil are terrible; he will run a thousand times round hell if by doing so he can make us believe that we have a single virtue which we have not."

                                                                                                      ~Teresa of Avila


     Many a one has turned from his inner chamber, under bitter self-accusation that he has prayed so little, and has resolved for the future to live in a different manner.  Yet no blessing has come—there was not the strength to continue faithful, and the call to repentance had no power, because his eyes had not been fixed on the Lord Jesus.  If he had only understood he would have said: “Lord, Thou seest how cold and dark my heart is: I know that I must pray, but I feel that I can not do so; I lack the urgency and desire to pray.”
     He did not know that at that moment the Lord Jesus in His tender love was looking down upon him and saying: “You cannot pray; you feel that all is cold and dark: why not give yourself over into my hands?  Only believe that I am ready to help you in prayer; I long greatly to shed abroad My love in your heart, so that you, in the consciousness of weakness, may confidently rely on Me to bestow the grace of prayer.  Just as I cleanse you from all other sins, so also will I deliver from the sin of prayerlessness—only do not seek the victory in your own strength.  Bow before Me as one who expects everything from his Savior.  Let your soul keep silence before Me, however sad you feel your state to be.  Be assured of this—I will teach you how to pray. (The Prayer Life by Andrew Murray)



It is amazing how, even after 37+ years of following Jesus, reading the saints and the poets can cause me to realize how much of a beginner I still am.  Lord, have mercy.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

a prayer for independence

As I was spending time this morning thinking about independence day and freedom it occurred to me that the thing I most need independence and freedom from, oddly enough, is my self.  I desperately need to be freed from my own dysfunctional patterns and habits, from my own broken ways of being and thinking.  I need freedom from being so full of myself, my plans, and my agendas.  Simply put, I need freedom from being so completely self-consumed.  Maybe this is the kind of Independence Day I should be praying for.

O Lord, how I long to be better, whatever that looks like and however that happens.  I long to be set free from my own self-consumed ways of being and seeing, and to become more and more like you.  I long to be more loving instead of self-centered.  I long to be more compassionate rather than competitive.  And I long to care more about your will and your work than I do about my own.  Continue, O God, to transform my heart.  Grow your good fruit in me and allow that fruit to flow effortlessly from my heart and life.  Change me from deep within. Give me more peace and less frustration.  Make me more rooted and less reactive.  Help me to be more caring and less annoyed.  O Jesus, fill me so full of your love that there will be no room in me for anything else.  Give me true independence from my self, in you. 

Thursday, July 2, 2015

yoke

Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. ~Matthew 11:28-30


"The great temptation is to try and make it happen, whatever it is.  That's where we need to step out of our yoke and step into Jesus' yoke and let him carry the burden.  We feel like we have to make it happen, and that's what we have to lay down.  We don't make it happen.  We turn it loose.  Whatever we are doing for the Lord, we let him carry through with it." ~Dallas Willard (Living in Christ's Presence)