Saturday, April 28, 2018

transforming community

How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore. (Psalm 133:1-3, NIV)

     
When God’s people live together in true community there is a qualitative difference.  It is good and pleasant.  It is like precious oil poured on the head—fragrant, soothing, and healing.  It is like the dew of Hermon falling on Mount Zion—renewing, restoring, and life-giving.  It is the place where God’s blessing is poured out, and where life, as he intended it to be, is experienced first-hand. 
     
True community reverses the effects of the fall.  It is where we are able to go from “I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid” (Gen. 3:10) back to being “naked and unashamed.” (Gen. 2:25)  It is the place where we are able to recapture the intent of God’s “very good” creation.  Thus, it is no accident when King David—in Psalm 133:1—uses the same word (towb) to describe what happens when God’s people live together in unity that is used to describe the goodness of his original creation. (Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31)  God’s desire for us is union, not isolation.  Union both with himself and with each other.
     
Unfortunately the leap from fear to love is a pretty big one.  Few seem willing to make it.  It is hard for us to muster the courage to come out of hiding, stop covering, and begin to relate to one another in loving vulnerability.  Paul put it so well in Romans 8:15 when he says, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.”  If we ever want to recapture the life of deep, true community that God desires for us—and that we desire for ourselves—we must choose to live in love, not in fear.  “For there is no fear in love.  But perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:18)
    
So let us come out of hiding.  Let us truly show up and be fully present with each other.  Let us stop trying to fix and judge each other, and simply be with each other and listen to each other in love.  Let us open up, rather than covering up.  Maybe then we will start to live the life God really desires for us to live.  And it will be like precious oil.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

stop

Stop!
Stop thinking it's all up to you.
Stop acting like it all depends on you.
Stop running around trying to manage and control everything.
Stop carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.
Stop eating the bread of anxious toil.
Just stop!
Be still and know that I am God.




Stop us, O God, when we go running off in a-million-and-one directions instead of being still and quiet and allowing your voice to speak to us and direct us.  For when we do not stop, look, and listen, there’s a good chance we are following ourselves rather than following you.  Amen.

Friday, April 20, 2018

131

o lord
may my heart
never become
too proud
may my eyes
never be raised
too high

do not let me get
too full of myself
or take myself
too seriously

help me to stop
trying to be
such a big deal
but instead be
totally content
being a little deal
so that you
may be big

for only then
will my soul
be at rest
only then
will my heart
be still and quiet
only then
will i be able
to find myself
content in your
loving embrace
and out my hope
in you
instead of me

Thursday, April 19, 2018

must

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. ~Luke 9:23


There is a must in the life of faith that is not fraught with guilt, not stuffed with ought and should. Instead, it is born out of affection and delight.  It is get to rather than have to.  It is pull rather than push.  It is not begrudging and coercive and forced, but a genuine expression of a heart that has been captured by love, the fruit of intimate union.  Thus, it cannot be quashed, contained, or subdued, but flows from our inner being like a river toward the sea.  It propels us into life with energy and vitality that mere duty cannot provide.  It does not beat us down or wear us out, but, by its very nature, reorders, renews, and transforms.

Somehow we must learn how to move from one must to the other.  The state of our lives, and our ministries, depend on it.  For our must will incarnate itself in one form or another.  It can take the shape of joy and peace and gratitude, or it can take the form of gloom and sadness and despair.  Which do you think Jesus would prefer? 

O Lord Jesus, help us live our lives like you did, by the must of love.

Monday, April 16, 2018

one thing

one thing
is needed
one thing
you still lack
one thing
i will seek

if this life
is meant
to be about
one thing

then why
do i seem
to miss
the point
so often

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

walk

This is what the Lord says: "Stand at the crossroads and look, ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.  But you said, 'We will not walk in it.'" (Jeremiah 6:16)

Walking is essential in the life of faith, there are no two ways about it.  It is impossible to follow Jesus without walking.  Thus, it is not intention that counts, but action.  Intention is meaningless without movement.  The best made plans are worthless without us eventually putting one foot in front of the other and beginning to move in the direction of our hopes and dreams.  The desire for a deeper, more intimate life with God will never be realized unless we take that step to make time and space to pray.  Wanting to pray isn't the end, praying is.  The path is only traveled by walking it.  So let's get a move on.  Even as we continue to stand and look and ask (as Jeremiah has told us), let us figure out what walking in the good way looks like today.  And then let us walk.  Obedience is the process by which intention becomes reality.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

spiritual practice

As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. (Luke 24:15-16)


Never underestimate the value of spiritual practice in life with God.  We are not told exactly what kept the disciples from being able to recognize Jesus.  Maybe it was the chaos of the last few days, maybe it was all that was swimming around in their hearts and minds at the moment, or maybe it was something bigger than that.  Who knows?  But we are told what helped them to finally realize who it was that stood before them--the breaking of the bread.  Spiritual Practice.

Spiritual practice is the thing that keeps us rooted and attentive and aware.  It keeps us awake and alert and open to God, and whatever he might be up to at any given moment.  It is not an end in itself, but is a necessary means to a beautiful end--union with the God who made us uniquely and loves us dearly.  Spiritual practice is not meant to manipulate, control, or manufacture.  It is merely something that makes space within us and among us, so that when Jesus finally does come up and walk along with us, we will actually be able to recognize him.

Yet somehow, given the demands of this life, it is something that is easily pushed aside.  And when it is, it makes us less and less able to notice the One who walks among us.  That is probably why John Wesley once wrote: "O Begin!  Fix some part of every day for the private exercises.  You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first will afterward be pleasant.  Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily.  It is for your life; there is no other way: else you will be a trifler all your days."

Monday, April 2, 2018

through the tears

woman, why are you crying
who is it you are looking for
~john 20:15

sometimes
the pain of the cross
so blinds our eyes
that we cannot see
the resurrection
standing right in front of us

we become 
so consumed with
our sorrow and sadness
that we forget
for a second
or a season
that this life
is not about us

o god
give us the grace
to look beyond the tears
and find you