We must bless without wanting to manipulate. Without insisting that everything be straightened out right now. Without insisting that our truth be known. This means simply turning whoever it is we need to bless over to God, knowing that God’s powerful love will do what our own feeble love or lack of it won’t.
I have suggested that it is a good practice to believe in six impossible things every morning before breakfast, like the White Queen in Through the Looking Glass. It is also salutary to bless six people I don’t much like every morning before breakfast.
Source: A Stone for a Pillow
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
Our brokenness reveals something about who we are.
Our sufferings and pains are not simply bothersome interruptions of our lives; rather, they touch us in our uniqueness and our most intimate individuality.
The way I am broken tells you something unique about me. The way you are broken tells me something unique about you. That is the reason for my feeling very privileged when you freely share some of your deep pain with me, and that is why it is an expression of my trust in you when I disclose to you something of my vulnerable side.
Our brokenness is always lived and experienced as highly personal, intimate and unique.
Fr. Henri Nouwen, Life of the Beloved
The way of trust is a movement into obscurity, into the undefined, into ambiguity, not into some predetermined, clearly delineated plan for the future. The next step discloses itself only out of a discernment of God acting in the desert of the present moment.
The reality of naked trust is the life of a pilgrim who leaves what is nailed down, obvious, and secure, and walks into the unknown without any rational explanation to justify the decision or guarantee the future.
(Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust)
Do I have such trust in God? Or even more importantly, do I even want to have such trust? My obvious initial answer is “yes.” But Jesus did tell us to count the cost before saying ‘yes’ to him. I realize far too often I jump in without counting the cost or without having any trust, as odd as that may sound.
Do I trust? Do I have such real faith in God’s goodness and love to truly surrender every fiber of my being and life to him? In matters of faith, we must start from where we are not where we aren’t. And where I am is the same place the father of the mentally ill son was when he said to Jesus, “Lord I believe but help my unbelief.” This is found in the Gospel of Mark 9:23-25. But what I love about this verse is that the translation goes more like this: “Lord, I believe but help me where my faith falls short.”
THAT is where I am. Yes, Lord I believe, I do…but help me where my faith falls short; where my faith is not large enough to trust you with reckless abandon. Lord, I believe, but help me where my flesh fears to wander and journey. Lord, I trust you in the Unknown, I trust you on the Journey, but help me where my faith falls short and I feel the urge to turn back around and go back from whence I came.
Yes, loving God involves journeying and being led sometimes where we would rather not go. But the truth is when we trust God we are called not to trust what we see but what is true – that God is faithful.
2 Timothy 2:13 reminds us that “God is faithful, even when we are faithless for God cannot deny himself.” God cannot deny his own divine Self within us. God cannot deny Jesus who dwells in us. God cannot deny the essential nature of his Being, namely that Abba is indeed perfectly faithful.
And knowing, not necessarily feeling, that God is faithful is what we hold onto in the journey deeper into the way of trust.
Folly: foolishness, madness, idiocy, stupidity, silliness, recklessness, craziness.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but [the cross] is God’s power to us who are being saved. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world —what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something. (1 Corinthians 1:18, 27-28)
The cross is folly and foolishness. The cross is also the means by which God transforms our lives.
In the days of Jesus, the cross was the Roman equivalent of today’s electric chair: it was a means of execution. So imagine walking into a church today and seeing an electric chair hanging from the rafters instead of a cross. You would think you had stepped into an episode of the Twilight Zone. But that is how foolish the cross is and the cross is the folly that leads to transformation.
For the message of the cross “is foolishness…[and] God’s power (1 Cor. 1:18).”
Indeed, the cross is madness.
And if you think about it, there is a madness and insanity to the thought of transformation. Have you ever heard the message that no one can really change? I mean we speak of being ‘new creatures’ in Christ, but do we truly, deeply believe it? And deep down in our hearts, at least in mine, I fear sometimes that God really won’t transform me, but leave me to wallow in my own darkness.
1 Corinthians 1 says the “message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.” We are indeed saved, loved and transformed by a scandalous and foolish person – Jesus – for he is pure Scandal (from the Greek word “Skandalon” meaning stumbling block) and he is pure Fool.
The cross is madness and it is also the way of our transformation…for Jesus is God’s power and God’s wisdom. We are told to revel in our weakness in order to find true power and that in our insignificance is the place where we find meaning and hope and transformation.
So the cross is all folly and madness and transformation.
So let us follow the scandalous One more deeply, into His folly, and there we will find transformation.
This is the beauty of prayer and of Christian life: coming to understand that a God who converses with humans has created them and has lifted them up, with the capacity of saying “I” and “you.” What would we give to have such power as to create a friend to our taste and with a breath of our own life to make that friend able to understand us and be understood by us and converse intimately – to know our friend as truly another self? That is what God has done…he has lifted us up so that he can talk with us and share his joys, his generosity, and his grandeur. He is the God who converses with us.
Archbishop Oscar Romero, The Violence of Love
Follow the Nazarene closely (he set a pretty good example on how to live).
Pray often and even more so. Pray for the people you love, and pray for the people you don’t love.
Don’t build a big church. Because if we do, then we will need to protect it and use up time, taxes, and treasure to maintain it. Instead of a building try Being Church – and rather than building a new building, start making charity and justice for the poor a personal, close-up thing and not a ‘program’ in the church.
Share the Good News. For what Jesus did is indeed Good and truly Newsworthy.
Visit the sick, the locked up and the shut in.
Give relief to those who are suffering around you.
Sit with the dying…just be with them as they transition into the next part of life.
Comfort the broken, the bruised and the bereaved.
Be generous and lavish with those in need and do so with your time, your talents, your money, and your stuff. Share your house with someone in need like a teenager in a bad situation or a young girl who is deciding to carry her child to term, share your car, your tools, your garage, your apartment, your books, etc.
Be reckless in giving and receiving Abba’s grace and graciousness.
Practice hospitality and be hospitable (for that is where the word hospital came from).
Love your neighbor…and yes, I do mean the one right next door, as well as the one down the street, across the country and across the world.
Live your life as a fully alive, aware human being. Practice being real and transparent then watch people see Jesus in and through your unique personality. No stuffed shirts, smug piousness or the need to be superior over people. And love sinners, all of them, not just the ones you feel most comfortable around. Befriend sinners and people of other faiths, and don’t do it just for evangelism sake. Jesus loved all people truly, madly and deeply, even the ones that walked away from, betrayed and killed him. He had no other motive but too love people into the Kingdom, so put down your Four Spiritual Laws, your tracts and your Bibles and start being real and around people (you’ll be amazed at how much Abba’s love will flow from you).
Practice Common Grace (whether you are Calvinist or Catholic). For all people are made in the image of God and God sustains everyone regardless of their faith or lack thereof (see Matthew 5:45 and James 1:17)
Practice common graciousness as well; don’t be a bully, mean-spirited, or smug. Just because we know the Truth does NOT mean we are always right. Only Jesus is Lord and only he will judge on the last day, so save the judging for him and him alone.
The Great Silence is a Gift.
The Great Silence is God easing towards you, ever so slowly.
The Great Silence is the grand unfolding of the Source of All Love.
The Great Silence is a discipline that many monastic orders
practice every day.
The Great Silence is…
gentle and still
and ever Present if we so chose.
The Great Silence is an invitation to swim in the ocean of Abba’s great Love…
it is a way for this God to break into our world and say “I love you.”
Everywhere I turn I read confusion and confusing words from the Tribe of Jesus. There is much confusion these days within the Christian Church; confusion about ‘identity’ and calling and place and relevance. We seem to be looking in a mirror dimly and thinking we are seeing perfectly clear. In truth, I see way too much smoke and mirrors when it comes to God’s truth coming from us blessed and cracked human beings.
The confusion is over (just) who we are following and what we are following; whether it is the lines we draw in the sand over our denominations or the teachings of our particular pastor or our particular theological interpretation. I will not mince words here, one of THE reasons I love the Catholic expression of faith is because it is not about me or you or the priest or even the Pope…it is about Jesus the Lord. Yes, I know the Catholic Church is so far from ‘perfect’ but ALL expressions of Jesus on this planet are merely the human face of an Infinite God.
Sometimes I wonder if all the confusion within the Christian community would be cleared up if we spent more time loving and following Jesus all while “fleshing out” his words rather than following each other or the next ‘sexy’ thing.
The Truth is we can only follow Jesus through the Spirit of God for it is impossible to do it on our own. We specks of dust could never follow the Infinite Creator, heck we could not even know him nor even comprehend him without the indwelling Presence of the Infinite – our minds would melt or explode if we pondered this without God’s lavish grace.
And following him is not done begrudgingly, out of spite, fear of hell, or blind obedience. No, it is done because we are passionately in love with him and it is the Spirit who fills us, leading us deeper into the heart of Messiah. And if there is one thing I have learned in 44 years of living: to know Jesus (as he truly is not as we ‘preach’ him to be) is to love him!
Although it may seem like an oversimplification, look throughout all the divisions within Christendom – they come about not because we are deeply in love with Jesus, but because we are deeply in love with and attached to our way, our interpretations, and our flesh. All these theological interpretations – these rules of “do’s” and “don’ts” – actually lead us away from Jesus and into religiosity.
From Baptist to Presbyterians, from Anabaptists to Methodists, from evangelicals to Catholics, from the Mainliners to Pentecostals and all of these blurred lines have come about not because of divine inspiration but because of human perspiration – fighting to the death for “our way/my way” but not for The Way.
Jesus said that he is the way, the truth, and the life. He didn’t say his teachings were the way, or the truth or the life. He said he is the Way. So the Way is not a teaching or a denomination or an ‘interpretation’ – the Way is a Resurrected God-man, Jesus of Nazareth.
And his way, his very being, is the way of love. Jesus was all about messy grace, extravagant mercy, and abundant compassion. His way is not narrow-minded parochialism, smallness, bigotry, anger over the ‘non-essentials’ or the rudeness of rightness.
The greatest sin we Jesus followers have committed is the “lack” of unity Jesus prayed for just hours before his death on a cross. And the confusion this sin creates would start to clear up if we truly focused more on following Jesus rather than following each other.
Not a sermon, just a thought…
“Jesus does not demand great actions from us but simply surrender and gratitude.”
St. Thérèse de Lisieux
Surrender. It is a very misunderstood word and especially so in the context of our relationship with God and spiritual growth. According to Webster’s Dictionary surrender means to “yield one’s power to another” or “to give (oneself) up to some influence, course, or emotion” (among other definitions).
It is often confused with the word resignation; which means “a passive accepting or unresisting attitude.”
Surrender, contrary to popular belief, is not passive. Surrender in the spiritual world is a proactive expression of our faith in Abba’s loyal love, a movement and action of trust. In order to even surrender at all we must first have some level of ‘power’ – as the definition implies – because we cannot give away that which we do not have. The greatest power we do have is our ability to surrender to Abba, for in doing that all else follows suit.
Resignation, on the other hand, is a passive “inaction” not based on faith but rather fear. Resignation is quitting, surrender is giving.
Many of us see and experience the concept of surrender more like resignation. Resignation is giving in. Surrender is giving up…as in giving (it) up to Abba.
Resignation can lead to resentment. Surrender can lead to freedom. And as anyone who has ever felt the burn of resentment knows there is little freedom in resentment. But those who have struggled with something (addiction, unforgiveness, and fear) and then surrendered it over to Abba knows the sweet freedom that follows. When Jesus says we shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set us free, he meant it. But understand also that when Jesus said that the Truth would set us free, he was also talking about himself and the freedom that comes from our absolute surrender to him.
St. Thérèse of Lisieux simplifies so much of what I am trying to say: Jesus desires surrender and gratitude. For in truth, when we surrender to Jesus gratitude flows from us because through surrender we experience a deepening awareness of Abba’s love for us and the sacrifice that Jesus went through in order to bring us back Home.
So, let’s surrender all to Jesus and feel the love of Abba flow…