Friday, September 15, 2017

solitude

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community.  He will only do harm to himself and to the community. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Never underestimate the value of solitude in the spiritual life.  It is essential.  The first movement of a healthy spiritual life should always be towards God.  Without that movement, we run the risk of moving towards others out of need rather than out of love.  Under that scenario we begin to demand from our community that which only God can give, and that is never a good place to start. 

When we go first into solitude, and hear the voice of our God telling us that we are loved and cherished and delighted in, then we actually have something to offer those in our lives and in our world, rather than needing to extort or extract something from them.  If, however, we run to the world first, we will continue to seek our security, significance, and affirmation from the creation rather than the Creator, and it will be impossible for us to love rather than manipulate.

O God, help the first movement of my soul always be towards you.  Help me to run to the quiet, to the place where I can hear your voice and sense your presence.  That place where I can be filled with you, rather than seeking to be filled by that which is around me.  For only then will I be able to love the way you have called me to love.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

beautiful

He has made everything beautiful in its time. (Ecclesiastes 3:11)

I don't know about you, but I have a difficult time just letting things be beautiful.  It seems like I am always trying to analyze, or explain, or turn  something into a message (or a blog post:), rather than simply enjoying the beauty of it.  If, indeed, God has made everything beautiful in its own time, why not just go with it?  Why not take what he has said for what it is, and simply embrace and enjoy the beauty of the thing (or person, or season, or event) that is before (or within) us?  Let it be beautiful.  Embrace the beauty.  Enjoy the beauty.  Let it wash over you and transform you--that's what beauty does.  That's who God is.

Monday, September 11, 2017

dwell

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust.”  (Psalm 91:1-2)



Apparently one leads to the other.  If I dwell in the shelter of the Most High, I will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  Thus, if my soul is not at rest, it is because I am dwelling in something other than the shelter of the Most High.  I may be dwelling in my fear and anxiety.  I may be dwelling in my need for achievement and affirmation.  I may be dwelling in my desire for security and control.  But I am certainly not dwelling in the shelter of the Most High.

The shelter of the Most High is a place of safety and security, even in the midst of the chaos and craziness of this life.  It is a haven, a refuge, a fortress.  It is a place that allows me safe harbor from the storms that continually batter me, from the inner voices and enemies that constantly attack me.  It offers me space—space to breathe, space to be.  Therefore, I do not have to worry about defending myself, or making a name for myself, for the Almighty is there to guard and protect me.  He is there to deliver me and to honor me.  Thus, I can rest in him.


Lord God Almighty, give me peace and confidence in your strong and tender care, that my soul may find rest in you.  Amen.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

least

An argument started among the  disciples as to which of them would be the greatest.  Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him.  Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.  For he who is least among you all--he is greatest. (Luke 9:46-48) 


I spend way too much time and energy trying to be awesome, when what Jesus really wants from me is to make myself least.  That is because he knows that, as odd as it sounds, becoming least is the pathway to life and freedom.  Becoming least is a beautiful thing because it sets us free from the need to be awesome.  When we finally stop trying so hard to become great, we can finally become all that God desires us to be, all that he created us to be.  There is no pressure to be anything other than our beautiful, God-breathed selves.  And, thus, there is the freedom to stop taking up all of the space. 
    
Good leaders know this all too well.  The best leaders never take up all of the space, they actually make space for God, and then for others, in a way brings about life and love and genuine community.  True leadership—which is exactly what Jesus was trying to teach his disciples—is about equipping, empowering, and enabling, not doing it all ourselves.  It calls those around us to become the very best version of themselves.


Give me the courage today, Lord Jesus, to make myself least, that you would be made great.  Amen.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

many will see

I waited patiently on the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.  He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.  He put a new song in my mouth; a hymn of praise to our God.  Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.  Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust. . ." (Psalm 40:1-4)


It is so easy for us to lose perspective at times.  Trouble or hardship hits and we are immediately swept away, caught up in our own needs, doubts, and concerns, losing track of the bigger picture.  In such times, life becomes all about us and, as a result, we are cast to the bottom of the slimy pit of doubt and self-pity.  Wallowing in the mud and mire of our own desperation and need.

I don't know why we should be so surprised when trouble comes our way, it is a regular part of life in this fallen world.  In fact, it comes so often that it should probably be more of a surprise to us when it doesn't come.  But, nonetheless, somehow it still catches us off guard and throws us into disorder, which we always assume is a bad thing.  But it is not.  In fact, disorder is now a part of the Divine order: birth is followed by death, which is followed by rebirth.  Order gives way to disorder, which then leads to a new order.  You see it all over the pages of scripture, particularly in Psalm 40.  Life is going along fine, then, one day, we find ourselves at the bottom of the slimy pit.  The next thing we know, God turns toward us, lifts us up, and sets our feet back on a rock.  Not only this, but he then proceeds to put a new song in our mouths.  A hymn of praise to our God, no less.

That is where we begin to get a glimpse of a bigger picture.  Many will see.  The whole thing was not about us at all, it was about him.  Sure God cares deeply for us and wants us to know his love and his care and his provision, but it does not stop there.  In fact, it only begins there.  Because after he has heard and lifted and set us, after he has put a new song in our mouths, those who watched the whole thing unfold, those who have heard the beauty of that new song, will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.  The whole thing was about him, not just about us.  It was meant to help tell the story of his redemptive power and unfailing love.  Our trust is meant to breed trust in those who witness it.  There is a Divine order, even in the disorder.  There is an intent of God behind the content of life.  God desires a new song, not only for us, but for those that hear the song he has put in our mouths.  So we had best pay careful attention to the song he has given us, and be grateful for it.  But, most importantly, we must keep on singing it.  For when we do, many will see.