Sunday, March 26, 2017

why write?

There is only one single way.  Go inward.  Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write.  This above all—ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night:  must I write?  Delve into your heart for a deep answer.  And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong simple "I must," then build your life according to this necessity. ~Rainer Maria Rilke


Why write?  I guess every writer, author, or poet--of which I am none of the above--has to answer this question for him or herself.  I am just a guy, and a very ordinary one at that.  All I can do (all anyone can do) is give you the reason why I write.  That's why I have always found these words from Rilke to be so incredibly helpful.  I write because I must.  I do not write to be read.  I do not write to have an impact.  I do not write to become famous.  I do not write to be published.  I do not write to make a living.  I write because something deep inside bids me write.  It is essential to the health of my soul, and to my calling in this world.  Simply put, I am not being the one God created me to be if I do not.  So I write.  

And as I do so, it is essential for me to keep this necessity on the front burner of my mind.  For it is so easy for me to lose sight of the must in the midst of the abundance of lesser reasons that are apt to divert my attention and dilute the clarity of my voice.  Mine is to be a faithful witness to the work God is doing within me and around me.  To tell the story of what God is doing in my heart and in my soul and in my life and in my world, regardless of whether anyone else ever reads it or finds it helpful.  Mine is not to be helpful.  Mine is to be myself.  That is why I have to resist the other voices that are apt to try and sway me with notions of "what readers want" or "how to write in a way to gain an audience."  Frankly, I don't care what readers want.  And I shouldn't care what readers want.  That, for me at least, cannot be the reason I write.  For the minute I start writing for an audience, or for a publisher, or any of the abundance of people I might be trying to impress, the whole process takes a terribly wrong turn .  I am no longer myself.  I am what someone else wants me to be.  And the only thing of real value that I have to offer anyone is the authentic, unique, genuine expression of God that he created me to be.  

So whether it is writing, or painting, or singing, or speaking, or banking, or engineering, or whatever it is that God has made a must in our lives, may we do it as beautifully and as authentically and as diligently as we can.  And may we build our lives according to that one necessity, not because we can, but because we must.



Monday, March 20, 2017

beloved

the older i get
the more i realize
what a mess
i am

but i am not
just any mess
i am
a beloved mess

thanks be to god

Saturday, March 18, 2017

center

"Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.  Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness." (Psalm 29:1-2)

So Kyrie Irving believes that the earth is flat.  Interesting.  He's entitled to his opinion, right?  From where I stand--right here, right now--I could buy into that theory.  I mean, from my own little vantage point in this great big world, that's the way it appears to be.  The problem is that time after time I have found that my own little vantage point is not a reliable place to begin.  The larger picture is the one that shows the truth.  The spaceships and satellites that have orbited our planet tell us the real story that our limited vision cannot see.  Oh sure, I can deny all of the evidence to the contrary and live in my own perception of the "truth," but that doesn't change the fact that the truth will still be the truth whether I acknowledge it or not. 

I'm sure Copernicus had the same conversations when he helped us to see that the earth is, in fact, not the center of the universe, the sun is.  There is just something within us that refuses to believe that that's true.  Our default, both then and now, is to believe that we are the center of the universe, that everything revolves around us.  And, unfortunately, I tend to live my life that way.  That's where the Psalms can be so helpful.  They remind me that this life is not about me.  I am not the center of the universe, God is.  And when I begin to truly believe that, and to live as if it were true, it changes everything.  The truth is that my life is not my own; I was made for bigger purposes.  My tiny little story isn't the main story.  I am participant in a story much bigger and much more amazing than I could dare hope or dream.  I was made by God, for God.  My life revolves around him, not he around me.  When I begin to recognize that truth I am able to begin to see things as they really are, and to engage in the life God made me for.

Eugene Peterson said it so well in his book Answering God: "The Psalms were not prayed by people trying to understand themselves.  They are not the record of people searching for the meaning of life.  They were prayed by people who understood that God had everything to do with them.  God, not their feelings, was the center.  God, not their souls, was the issue.  God, not the meaning of life, was critical."

O Lord God, Creator of all things, please remind me again today that I am not the center of the universe, you are!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

disrupted

The voice of the Lord is powerful;
the voice of the Lord is majestic. 
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
The voice of the Lord strikes
with flashes of lightening. 
The voice of the Lord shakes the desert;
the Lord shakes the Desert of Kadesh. 
The voice of the Lord twists the oaks
and strips them bare
And in his temple all cry, "Glory!"
~Psalm 29:4-5, 7-9

There are no two ways about it;
God's voice is disruptive. 
A perfect thing to remember
during the season of Lent,
a season that is quite disruptive itself. 
I don't know about you,
but even though I hate to admit it,
I need to be disrupted. 
I have a tendency to fall asleep in my life
and not even know it. 
I need to be shaken out of my slumber. 
I need to be disrupted
from my sense of ease and comfort
with the dysfunctional patterns and habits
I have fallen into
that I somehow have begun to see as normal. 
I need to be shaken and twisted. 
My soul needs to be stripped bare,
so that I can see things
the way they truly are. 
God wants so much more for me
than the life I am currently living,
so once a year Lent rolls around. 
It is my invitation
to allow the voice of God
to thunder in my life. 
To invite him to break my cedars,
whatever that may look like. 
To even ask him to be break and to strike
whatever needs to be broken and struck,
so that I might live the life
that God wants to live
in and through me. 
And all in the temple
will cry, "Glory!"  

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

tired

There is a delicate balance to be kept in this life of faith.  One that is so fragile and tenuous that we must pay careful attention to it, lest we fall off one side of the fence or another in the tension between doing and being.  Life can get so busy and chaotic at times that we hardly even notice it's happening; that's the tricky part.  The urgent can take precedence over the important and before you know it you have subtly drifted into a dark and weary land.  That's why it is so important to keep the pattern Jesus showed us in Luke 10:15-17 on the forefront of our minds.  It is a pattern that repeats itself over and over again in the life of faith: Jesus takes the bread, then he blesses the bread, then he breaks the bread, and then he gives the bread.

We are all people who are constantly being given on a regular basis, oftentimes in numerous areas simultaneously.  So being given is not typically the problem.  The problem occurs when we separate being given from being taken, blessed, and broken.  Each of the four movements of this dance of life and faith (and particularly ministry) is vitally necessary.  All are interdependent.  But all to often we jump straight to being given before we make the space to be taken, blessed, and broken--much to our own demise.  For it is only after we have allowed God to take us tenderly and lovingly into his hands and his heart, and to bless us by infusing us with his words and Spirit of goodness and affection and life, and then to gently (and not so gently if necessary) break us of our independence and our pride and our need for control, that we can fruitfully, authentically, and powerfully be given.  For if we skip those first three steps, we will soon end up tired and depleted, burnt-out and exhausted, or lifeless and shallow; which will be no good to anyone.  Being given is not an end in itself, we must indeed have something to give before we rush into the world to try and feed them with our meager five loaves and two small fish.  Therefore, we must make sure, as the disciples did, that we first give all that we have to Jesus, for only then will we have anything of eternal value to offer the hungry multitudes.