Oct 31, 2009

Quotes From Edward John Parnell

I am reading through an old journal, my journal from late 2007 and 2008. Apparently, I read a book called The Kingdom of Love and Pride of Life by Edward John Parnell. I don't remember reading it, but I found some lovely quotes and now I want to read it again. I think the book was written in 1960. I imagine I plucked it off of my mother-in-law's book shelf. She has saved all of her college books and textbooks and also those of my now deceased father-in-law. It pays to write down quotes and their sources. Now I can go back to the book!

"A happy life is a shared life." p. 44

"Fellowship is a vital sharing of lives." p. 46

"A person's secrets remain hidden until he chooses to reveal them, and he will only reveal them when he is treated like a person." p.47

"The more we love a person, the more we know him." p.48

"A child is . . . content to accept things as they are." p. 49

Also, today I headed an hour 20 minutes west to Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana for a Writing Colloquium. I really appreciated the seminars I attended and the people I met (many from Ohio, not all Quakers, but I did love the many Quaker brothers and sisters that I met). Also, Julia Kasdorf's talk (she is a poet) gave me a lot to think about. When I go to a writer's conference, I see and feel that I am truly a writer. I thank God for that confirmation.

Two things that I like about Indiana: St. Meinrad's Monastery and Earlham School of Religion's Writer's Colloquium. Yay!

Oct 30, 2009

Jesus Asleep In The Boat

"And a great storm developed on the sea so that the waves began to swamp the boat. But he was asleep." Matthew 8:24

I always wondered how Jesus could sleep on the stern of the boat with water spraying his face, in the midst of howling winds and rain, thunder claps, and bolts of lightning that threatened to electrocute anyone or anything within striking distance. I am sure the disciples were shouting instructions over the howling wind, instructions for keeping the boat afloat. It seemed humanly impossible for him to be sleeping. But, if I think further, than I think "not necessarily." I know girls who have slept through fire drills. Jesus was probably so exhausted that the weather conditions didn't rouse him right away. And also, he didn't fear the elements because he knew that his Father was in control of all things.

The more mature our faith, the more trust and calm we exhibit in the midst of the most terrifying storms in life. But maybe not at the onset of the storm. At the outset, we might have little faith like the disciples. But as we are open to God's infusion of grace into our lives, as we read Scripture, and pray, and commune with the body of Christ and remember all the times that God has been faithful to us in our lives, we'll exhibit a calm, a confidence in our God, despite the hell around us or in us (by in us, I think of diseases or mental illnesses, or fears that rise up).

We shouldn't be overly upset if the storm initially strikes terrifying fear into us. But when that fear comes, we need to go to God, go to his word, go to the body of Christ, that we might be reoriented. As time goes by, we'll be astounded at God's grace that brings about the peace that is beyond all comprehension, a peace in the midst of humanly terrifying conditions. Temptations not to trust God will come, but let us remain steadfast in our trust.

When we do, it shows that we have matured and continue to mature.

Oct 29, 2009

Genuine Fellowship

There is no truth towards Jesus without truth towards man. Untruthfulness destroys fellowship, but truth cuts false fellowship to pieces and establishes genuine brotherhood.

~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

Oct 28, 2009

I Have Engraved You On The Palm Of My Hands

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands: your walls are every before me" (Isaiah 49:15-16).

Be nourished by the word of the Lord. I do not need to write anymore.

Oct 27, 2009

The Discipline of Waiting

Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him. Isaiah 64:4

I think one of the hardest things to do is wait on God. We might start off confident in our waiting, but when God takes longer than we dreamed possible--we start to fall apart at the seams. Do we realize that the saints in Scripture spent most of their time waiting on God?

Think of Noah. God told him to build an ark. He built it by faith. I believe Scripture says it took him 400 hundred years to build it. I wonder if at any time during the building process he doubted? I think he must have. I think he must have wondered if he was out of his mind, a lunatic. I am wondering if the taunts and scoffs ever became almost unbearable for him? He believed that God told him to build the ark, however, he had no proof that it was going to rain, no proof besides God's word to him. I bet you at some point he wondered whether it was his own voice that told him to take on the building project or whether it was God's. But he didn't turn back. He kept on, even if he did have some doubts. God fulfilled the promise. And like I reminded all of us in an earlier post--Abraham had to wait 25 years for Isaac. David had to wait between 14 and 20 years to become king after Samuel anointed him as king. Job waited for God to answer him after everything was taken away. Jesus waited 30 years in obscurity before commencing the public road to his death and resurrection.

Waiting is a spiritual discipline. During our wait, who we are comes to the surface: our doubts, our impatience, our lack of faith. But also, good things come to the surface like our ability to persevere in the midst of trials because of the grace of God.

Most of the time we feel we can't wait another second for the Lord to answer. We want to take matters into our own hands. That is spiritually ruinous. And some of us have been ruined by our impatience. And so we need to be redeemed. Others of us know that to take matters into our own hands spells spiritual death on a certain level, but we're chaffing at having to wait.

I know it is hard to wait. I myself am waiting now for several things. But I want to encourage you, encourage myself, encourage a friend that I just spoke with of this truth. God acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

Do not do anything rash. Don't give up. In time (I am not sure how long though) you'll see the answer to prayer--you'll see God's salvation on the horizon. If you are weak or doubting, turn to the body of Christ for support. If you cannot pray, let others pray for you. God gives grace to the humble, a bruised reed he will not snuff out!

Oct 26, 2009

In Our Good Behavior We're Liable to the Baddest Sins

Here is an excerpt from Eugene Peterson's very good book Under The Unpredictable Plant (page 31).

"Here it is again, one of the oldest truths in spirituality, with special variation ins pastoral ministry: it is in our virtuous behavior that we are liable to the gravest sins. it is while we are being good that we have the chance of being really bad. It is in this context of being responsible, being obedient, that we most easily substitute our will for God's will, because it is so easy to suppose they are identical....When we are being obedient and successful pastors we are in far more danger than when we are being disobedient runaway pastors. To give us proper warning, the story of Jonah shows Jonah obedient far more unattractive than Jonah disobedient: in his disobedience he at least had compassion on the sailors of the ship; in his obedience he has only contempt for the citizens of Nineveh."

While Peterson is talking to pastors, how might this apply to us? Here is one way...it is when things are going well, when we are successful, that we have the highest chance of developing hubris--pride --arrogance. We more easily become enamored with ourselves and our own ventures. I am not going to give anymore away, but I'll let you think about it.

Your insights are welcome!

Oct 25, 2009

Your Kerith Ravine

In I Kings 17, Elijah the prophet tells Ahab that there will be a famine in the land and that it won't rain again until Elijah says so. Immediately following his proclamation, the Lord sends Elijah into hiding in the Kerith Ravine. There the Lord sends ravens to feed him and has Elijah camp by a brook where he can drink water. When the brook drys up, the Lord sends Elijah to the house of the widow in Zerapeth.

Perhaps you feel as if you're in a spiritual dry place, like there is a famine in your soul. You believe in God and trust him, but there is nothing--you sense nothing. You worry that you won't be provided for, that your soul and your life will wither. All your attempts to help yourself have been in vain. You are exasperated. You fear that you'll fall into despair.

Tonight, it is close to 12:30 a.m. as I write, I want to encourage you to cease striving. Do the next thing in front of you. If you can read Scripture wonderful, but if you cannot even do that, if you cannot even pray--allow God to minister to you as he did to Elijah. He will feed you through friends, speak to you through creation, and in many and often unforeseen ways, he will provide for you. He will meet your needs.

Elijah didn't really do anything in the Kerith Ravine. He just rested. And that is what you need to do right now. Cease striving. Perhaps the most godly thing you could do right now for yourself and those around you is get rest. Take naps.

If your life and circumstance allow, participate in holy leisure. Allow God himself to minister to you.

Oct 24, 2009

As Kingfishers Catch Fire...(Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places)

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim and roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad it's name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying what I do is me: for that I came.

I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his,
To the Father through the feature of men's faces.

Poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Oct 23, 2009

Musings of a Wannabe Author

So I am a writer ( alot more than that of course). That is what God has called me to do. I've spoken my writing on radio and it has been well-received. I have spoken my writing at churches and retreats and it has been well-received. I have spoken my writing at seminars and it has been well-received. I've sent my book proposals to two major Christian publishing houses and they've said I am an excellent writer, like the best in my field...but I am a nobody (those are my words), I don't have an audience built already...so no go on publishing. The content and quality of the writing aren't enough. I have to have an audience before I write the book.

You know, I don't fault the editors, and I thank them for highly commending my writing. Their commendations are a beautiful, beautiful, gift since I didn't go to school to be a writer. I am sure there are books these editors want to see published. But they are thwarted in their recommendations because the publishing houses don't want to take a risk on a new author. The bottom dollar is what counts. You could be a bad writer and have bad theology but be well-known and people will buy your stuff because they know who you are. This whole thing, it is a business. However, I am still sad that the content and quality of my writing don't count, don't count for enough just now. Am I to be inauthentic in trying to garner an audience and notoriety just to get a book deal? Do I spend time into inauthentically trying to make myself into a Christian superstar just to sell a book? I don't think I can do that. Understand that I am not saying that everyone who is published is doing that but some are.

God is taking me through the wilderness of his calling on my life. Hopefully, that'll make my writing better and enable me to pass on what he is teaching me.

And I say to you, take courage in whatever God is calling you to do or be. He tests our callings. David was anointed by Samuel as king of Israel. However, it would be 14-20 years from the time he was anointed until the time he took the throne. You'd think that his ascension to the throne would quickly follow on the heels of his anointing. But it did not. He was in hiding, pursued by Saul, hounded by others. I bet you he wondered, "Were Samuel or I out of our minds? Did God really call me to be King? If he did, he sure has a funny way of going about it." That is how I feel right now, "Did God really call me to write? To pass on what he has taught me? He has a funny way of going about it." I'll keep you updated on the developments. It is completely a faith walk in the wilderness--on the journey through this life. But know that what I am going through and what you are going through as far as our callings being tested is nothing new. Joseph went through it, Moses went through it, David went through it, Jesus went through it, and many other people in history have gone through it.

In the mean time, until God fulfills his author plans for me, I hope to write on the blog more frequently. The lapses in blogging are due to me sending out book proposals or working on my drafts. Both take a lot out of me and a lot of prayer.

Peace in the name of our Lord.

Oct 7, 2009

Obey First...Know Later?

"If anyone chooses to do God's will, then he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." John 7:17.

This is a very interesting verse. Jesus is basically saying, "You want to know if I am who I claim to be? Then obey God's will, choose to obey in thought, word, and deed, and you'll find out if I am who I claim to be." But perhaps someone will say, "I don't know God's will." I'd say read the Scriptures to find out the basics. Consult church history, tradition, and a wise community. We know that ultimately God desires us to love him and love others...not one or the other. So then our next task is to do that.

But perhaps we have a specific question about his will not addressed in Scripture like who should we marry or are we going to get married or what job should we take...such questions can take us right back around to what Jesus said in John 7:17 though not as a direct application. We can flesh this principle out from that verse: Obey God in what you know he wants you to do for today and then he will cast light on the next step, so that you know what to do next. The Lord doesn't usually write down our future like he did on the wall for the Babylonian King Beltshazzar. He says, "Obey me first, trust me first, and I will reveal the next step." Rarely does he reveal his plan without our obedience and trust. In the Christian life it seems to be Obey Then Know. It is the Christian Epistemology.