Nov 30, 2010

Crushed By Another's Burden

"Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2

The Lord asks us to bear one another's burdens. We are to be yokefellows with others, to assist them however we healthily can with their troubles in this life. Sometimes it is just listening. Other times it is taking action, providing money or food, or childcare. It could be visiting someone in the hospital or jail. It is being  hospitable and a friend. It is helping to do what needs done. It is conducting ourselves like loving brothers and sisters in Christ. It could be offering guidance. All this involves discernment and wisdom. And certainly prayer.

Sometimes we are unsure of what to do. We wonder if helping would be hindering or enabling. That is where prayer and the counsel of wise brothers and sisters comes into play. But let us suppose that we are predisposed to helping one another however we can. That's not the problem. The problem is that the burden of the other starts to crush us. On our beds at night, we turn the problem over and over in our minds. We toss and turn. We lose sleep. That is when the weight of another's burden crushes us.

We've taken on too much. We've stepped into God's position. He tells us to carry one another's burden. But he also tells us not to worry (Matthew 6:25-33). We have to choose not to worry. After we have done all we can to assist (not more than we can that is God's work) we have to choose to trust God and leave that person and their burdens with him. We bear the burden by praying and helping.

It is God who disentangles and purifies a person. And yes, he uses others to help that process along. We do not disentangle and purify a person; we provide guidance and help. But the person ultimately must make the decision to do what is right, or to take steps toward wisdom, to take steps towards life. God is more than sufficient to help them to do so. He gives his grace (divine aid).

So if we are worrying, losing sleep, and in so doing condsidering that part of bearing the burdens of another, let us stop the worry. No one benefits by our loss of health. God says to ask for the manna we need today and not worry about tomorrow. Let us do what we can today and lay down without worry on our minds.

If we find ourselves worrying about a person or situation and losing sleep, let us turn to God and thank him and praise him for all his wonderful attributes. Let us pray or read. Anything but worry. Worry is sin and not good for us, although some of us are more prone to it than others.

Nov 28, 2010

Three "Nevers" Having To Do With Humility

It is true. Lately, I've posted much about humility. I know not why exactly except that it has been on my mind. It just seems I am reading about it and also hoping that God will knead it deeper into my soul and that I will do (or be) my part, too.

That said, here is a morsel I gleaned from our Renovare discussion thread. It is from my friend in Huntsville, Texas, Helen.

1. Never pretend
2. Never presume – that you deserve things.
3. Never push – standing for what is right is different than sticking up for your rights. Standing up for what is right is not a personal issue. Get out of the business of making things happen. You don’t push…you let God do it. Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God means let him carry the load. Don’t trust your best.

This is from a discussion about Dallas Willard's book, Renovation of the Heart.

Nov 23, 2010

Questions About Christianity

My husband ( a philosophy professor) was recently asked some questions about Christianity by a student concerned for her friend.  He shared the questions and his answers with me. I found the questions to be good questions and his responses so thoughtful  and helpful that I wanted to share them with my readers and whoever else happens to providentially stumble upon the blog. I do so with permission.

(My next post will probably be after the U.S.'s Thanksgiving. So please feel free to look around at others. May the Lord bless you.)

First his disclaimer to the student asking the question:
As I'm sure you are aware, this is a long journey you are on with your friend. There's no reason to expect it to resolve quickly. In fact, it's not even clear what 'resolution' means here. Deeply devout, fully committed followers of Jesus have asked these questions throughout their walk with Jesus. There is a grand tradition within the Church of faith seeking understanding. Perhaps you and your friend are falling right in line with that tradition. If so, rejoice!

Of course, these questions may be symptomatic of other underlying matters. I don't presume that's what's going on here with your friend. I do not know your friend, and as I've already noted, plenty of deeply devout, fully committed Jesus followers ask these same questions. The mere presence of questions doesn't all by itself indicate some underlying, and troubling, issue. Even so, it is possible that your friend has other matters to attend to (e.g., broken relationships, unmet expectations, disillusionment, hurt at the hands of some Christians, moral tension, dissatisfaction with some particular stripe of Christianity), and these questions are symptoms of those other matters. I don't know, but you may discern that's the case with your friend. Either way, walk in grace and humility with your friend. Love your friend.

Here are some brief responses to the tough issues you raised. Obviously, volumes have been written on each. I can't do it all justice here. More conversation is needed. Feel free to pursue any one of these points.

Shawn's responses are in bold.

Here are some of her questions:

She is thinking that God unfairly put punishment on us when it was the true fault of Adam and Eve. She says we sin today because it is after the fall and sin has already entered the world.

"After that we were all born with sin! Is that really an excuse for humans that were created perfect in the eyes of God? I also very truly believe that they did not understand the consequences of their sin. Would they have done it if they would have known it was going to impact mankind for the rest of time?

 [Distinguish between (1) performing an action knowing that it is wrong and that there will be bad consequences, and (2) performing an action knowing that it is wrong and knowing all of the bad consequences that will follow. Take a corporation that knowingly dumps its toxic sludge into a nearby river. Let's assume that the corporation knows that it is wrong to do this, and knows that there will be bad consequences (e.g., some negative environmental impact and some corresponding human suffering). Of course, the corporation may not know the full extent of the bad consequences that will follow. So, the corporation may not know that the environmental impact and human suffering will be irreversible and extend far into the future, affecting numerous generations. In fact, this may not even be knowable. The corporation may have had no way to know that the effects would be so terrible and far-reaching. And the corporation may not have dumped the toxic sludge had they known. But even granting all that, we still hold the corporation morally accountable for the wrongdoing it did commit, the damages that it did know about, and we still (minimally) identify the corporation as the cause/source of the widespread environmental damage and human suffering.]

Regardless I understand the sin was committed and there is nothing we can really do about that now, but since God is just and fair, is it really fair that we all bear the consequences of the first sin?

[It's not fair that a newborn baby is addicted to crack due to the behavior of the mother while pregnant. While not fair, it's also simply a natural consequence of abusing crack while pregnant. Similarly, perhaps it's not fair that we are all addicted to sin due to the behavior of our original parents. While not fair, it's still a natural consequence of the original sin of our original parents. And it's still objectionable for us to refrain from attending to our addiction (though doing so will be quite difficult) just as it would be objectionable for an adult crack addict (who started life as a crack baby) to refrain from attending to his crack addiction (though that would be tremendously difficult as well).]

It seems like the Bible sometimes contradicts itself in that matter.

 [I'm not sure what your friend has in mind here.]

Also, is there such a thing as free will? He told Adam and Eve not to do something He already knew they were going to do. Can we change our fate? And doesn't any of the paths I take, lead me where God wants me anyhow?"

[Compare: In some cases, I know that my three year old daughter is not going to obey when I tell her not to do something. I tell her not to do something, and I already know what she is going to do. But this fact all by itself does not entail that my daughter lack significant freedom.]

She also asked about that fact that we base our faith on a book of faith. She mentions that other religions base their religion on their books of faith too, so is it really ok to say that other people are heathens when we are following faith too?

 [No objections to other religions should target the fact that they appeal to an authoritative book or to the fact that they involve faith. Those would be bad objections. As your friend points out, if those things alone were objectionable, we'd be in trouble, too. I do think that I'd question the assumption that "we base our faith on a book of faith". I'd want to know what exactly that means and why we should think it's true. Surely we have good reasons for regarding the Bible, and not some other religious text, as authoritative. Moreover, our religious convictions don't just "fall out of" our Bible reading. Rather, they arise (in part, at least) out of communal reflection upon (1) divine testimony (especially as given in the Bible), (2) the deliverances of reason, (3) our collective experiences, and (4) the testimony of the global Church through the ages as it reflects on such matters.]

She says, "how do we define morals? In this country we say it is wrong to put women into slavery in a business that sells them. But in another country such as Africa and Uganda they do not see any problem with that, what gives us the right to tell them what they believe is wrong, if what we believe is right is completely based on faith and not anything concrete to another person?

[Again, I wonder about this: "what we believe is right is completely based on faith". Why think that? Surely ethics is a rational inquiry, with true moral claims being supported by good reasons. For example, presumably there are good reasons for thinking that slavery is morally wrong, reasons that go well beyond (or don't even include) "our country says so". What might such reasons be? We might begin by pointing out that slavery often causes tremendous physical and psychological pain and suffering, it violates the autonomy of the slave, it fails to respect the intrinsic worth dignity of the slave, it harms the slave by setting back or defeating the slave's interests, and there are a lot of other ways we could treat the slave that don't cause such pain and suffering, that do respect her autonomy and worth/dignity, and do serve her interests. The issue is not whether there's anything special about us that "gives us the right to tell them what they believe is wrong". Compare: there's nothing special about us that gives us the right to tell flat-earthers that what they believe is wrong. That's not the issue. Rather, what is the issue is that there are good reasons for thinking that the earth is not flat. Morality is no different in that respect. (Incidentally, your friend is no doubt right that we get some of our moral convictions from the Bible. But divine testimony via the Bible is just another way to get good reasons for thinking that something is true. Compare: I have good reason for thinking that human DNA has a double helix structure because scientists tell me so. Similarly, I have good reason for thinking that some act is wrong because God tells me so (through the Bible). Of course, this raises the issues of whether the Bible really is divine testimony and whether our interpretations of the Bible are good interpretations, but those are different matters.]

What if a person is involved in a lifestyle like this and believes it is part of their faith? several examples such as a man who takes multiple wives and believes that it glorifies his god, or the men that give take their lives and the lives of others because they believe it glorifies their god.

 [No doubt this happens. But nothing of substance really follows from this. I may think going to a ballet for our anniversary will really make my wife happy, yet be mistaken about that. Being earnest and sincere doesn't guarantee being right about what glorifies/honors God.]

I guess what I am asking is what gives us the authority and the right to say what they believe is wrong?

 [As already indicated, that's not the issue. We don't have any special authority here. Even so, we do have a right to tell someone they're mistaken, don't we? Suppose someone claims that Toledo is the capital city of Ohio. Do I not have the right to tell them that they are mistaken about that, pointing out that Columbus is the capital? Why is morality any different? But again, that's not the main issue.]

Last thing, I really don't understand how the only thing we can be sure of is Christianity and the Bible if those are the only two things that require the most faith and the most belief?"

[I guess I'd have to hear more about this. I'm not sure why your friend thinks that it requires "the most faith and the most belief" to think that Christianity is true and the Bible is authoritative. I'm also not sure why your friend thinks that those are "the only things we can be sure of". I'm sure that I'm married. I'm sure that I have a daughter. I'm sure that in my office right now. I'm sure that I'm looking at a computer. I'm sure that 2+2=4. I'm sure that all bachelors are unmarried. Of course, I could go on. Furthermore, why think that we must be sure (in some really strong psychological or epistemic sense) that Christianity is true (or that the Bible is authoritative)? There is room in the kingdom for those who aren't so sure (psychologically or epistemically). The kingdom belongs to them, too.]

Stories on Humility from the Desert Fathers

An old man was asked, “What is humility?” and he said in reply, “Humility is a great work, and a work of God. The way of humility is to undertake bodily labour and believe yourself a sinner and make yourself subject to all.” Then a brother said, “What does it mean, to be subject to all?” The old man answered, “To be subject to all is not to give your attention to the sins of others but always to give your attention to your own sins and to pray without ceasing to God.”

An old man said, “Every time a thought of superiority or vanity moves you, examine your conscience to see if you have kept all the commandments, whether you love your enemies, whether you consider yourself to be an unprofitable servant and the greatest sinner of all. Even so, do not pretend to great ideas as though you were perfectly right, for that thought destroys everything.”

I copied these stories  from Father Vasile Tudora at with permission

Nov 22, 2010

Romantic Advice and Musings - Red Flags

We become like the objects we love. So we must take utmost care where and on whom we set our affections. Just to be clear, God must have our highest affections. As we are captivated by him, enraptured with him, all other things are set in perspective. We see better. Without that, we steer off course, unless we are esconced in a more or less healthy Christian community where others flag us down and redirect us and we're willing to listen.

That said, whenever I am asked about relationships or a particular relationship this is one of the first things I ask: Do you have any red flags concerning him or her? Does your gut make you unsure of this relationship? If so, I'd pause, reexamine your relationship, or possibly get out of it. Now by red flags, I don't mean a few little annoying things, things that might irk you. But are there deep character issues, or something that you can't quite put your finger on, but some sort of insecapable feeling or evidence that makes you question the health of the person or relationship?

Have parents, friends, or others whose opinion you respect expressed doubts about the relationship or its health?

Could you marry this person as he or she is today? If you're honest with yourself could you? Could you live with them the way they are the rest of your life or 'till death do you part? If not, I would step by and reexamine the relationship. Do so in community, with those you trust. Never have a secretive relationship. Your family and friends should know well the one upon whom you set your affections. If we are in a secretive relationship it shows we have something to hide or are ashamed of.

The mistake a lot of us make is that we dismiss and devalue the negative opinions of those around us regarding our romantic relationships. We say, "They don't know him or her like I do." That is true. But they can observe things we might be blind to.

We must be very careful with whom we are entangled. They suffocate us, squeezing the life out of us, or they can entangle us in the holy life of God. It is a life or death thing these relationships. Even a good one is not perfect. But far better not to be in one, than to be in a bad one or one where your affections are taken off of God.

A good relationship helps you to be God-directed and others directed. Even professing Christians may be quite unhealthy. The label Christian cannot be the litmus test for believers considering marriage relationships or even a dating relationship. It must be Christian + health.

(This post of course is directed to those not married).

Nov 20, 2010

Pride and Arrogance Contrasted With Humility

"The proud and arrogant person is a trouble to all that converse with him, but most of all unto himself: every thing is enough to vex him; but scarce any thing sufficient to content and please him. He is ready to quarrel with any thing that falls out; as if he himself were such a considerable person, that God Almighty should do every thing to gratify him, and all the creatures of heaven and earth should wait upon him, and obey his will. The leaves of high trees do shake with every blast of wind; and every breath, every evil word will disquiet and torment an arrogant man.

But the humble person hath the advantage when he is despised, that none can think more meanly of him than he doth to himself; and therefore he is not troubled at the matter, but can easily bear those reproaches which wound the other soul. And withal, as he is less affected with injuries, so indeed is he less obnoxious unto them. 'Contention which cometh from pride,' betrays a man into a thousand inconveniences, which those of a meek and lowly temper seldom meet with. True and genuine humility begetteth both a veneration and love among all wise and discerning persons, while pride defeateth its own design, and deprives a man of that honour it makes him pretend to."

~ Henry Scougal in The Life of God in the Soul of Man p. 73

Nov 19, 2010

Pilgrim's Heart

I have permission to include this post by Lazarus on my own blog. I so appreciated it that I wanted to share it with my readers. It is from Lazarus of Hyacinth over at Oasis: Thank you Lazarus for kindly allowing me to post this here. Please do visit his blog. He is a very wise man.

The innocence of childhood is soon replaced by the prejudices of culture and country, which we learn to wear as if they were a fine suit of clothes.

The happy, carefree smile of our youth is soon replaced by the tightly drawn, thin lips of self-righteousness, bitterness, and disdain for others, who are seen as intruders into our petty kingdoms. Our modes of experience, knowing, and feeling are reduced to what is 'approved' and 'acceptable' within the little niche we have carved out for ourselves in the world, and so are narrowed accordingly, cutting us off from mystery and wonder.

And so Jesus tells us that we must become as little children, and only then do we begin to sense that interior Light and Voice of Spirit, to acquire another way of knowing and feeling that beckons us to move beyond our self-centered prison, to break the chains of our enslavement.

In our sad state, the narrower our vision became, the more everything became centered around us alone, the more we sat as judge and jury in our own court of last resort, and so we became cut off from the possibilities of encounter, and shielded ourselves against communion with the other, aside from the opportunity to advance our own interests. Worse than a blind man is the one who has eyes, but refuses to even look. The lone duck in his small pond does not believe the duck who has been to the great lake and seen the huge flocks, even less can he conceive of the ocean.

By means of The Jesus Prayer the Holy Spirit begins to cause all this self-centeredness to come crashing down, as a different Light of Knowledge appears in the heart, expanding outwards into the mind and body. We begin to perceive things at first in small flashes that shake our most cherished confidences, and then at times it comes in a flood that sweeps everything else away but the blazing Light that to our pride of life is like a drowning. A death is happening to us, a transformation and birth is taking place.

And once we begin to see things from heaven's point of view, we will never be the same again. A wounding will take place in the heart, and it is the wound of knowing that, beyond any doubt, there exists a type of love that can NEVER be enough.

Once we have tasted of that sweetness, we shall be forever bound to journey into that Infinity... forever seeking within the Unfolding Mystery the Wonder of the next embrace...

Nov 18, 2010

Outside: The Glory of God

"The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world." Psalm 19:1-4a

If we stay inside of our homes, we'll slowly rot from the inside out. It is a sad commentary on our times, but these days, most of our business and recreation is conducted inside. And I propose that's why we see little of God's glory. If we'd just step outside more often and breathe fresh air (perhaps some of us will have to take a drive away from our towns to breathe fresh air, I know), if we'd notice the million little details all about us: the congregation of sparrows who gather every morning on the power lines breaking into a chirping chorus of song, the cat on its trip through the field going who knows where, the larvae trying to inch through the door, the dark purple cumulus clouds, the sun, the moon and the stars . . . .

Holed up in our homes or offices, we miss God.

And we wonder at the extent of our depressions.

Stepping out the door, even on a cold winter day warms the soul.

Get outside.

Original post 3-15-08

Nov 16, 2010

Deep Sensitvity to Others

"Deep sensitivity to the suffering of those in need comes from our ability to put ourselves in their position, and from remembering our own experiences of vulnerability  and dependence. This sense of shared human experience extends even to those most foreign to us. Calvin wrote that when seeing a poor person, we should think 'now I have been in that condition and certainly wanted to be helped; indeed it seemed to me that people ought to have pitied me in order to help me':

But what [is the usual case]? When we are comfortable, it is not a matter of our remembering our human poverty, rather we imagine that we are exempt from that and that we are no longer part of the common class. And that is the reason why we forget , and no longer have any compassion for our neighbors or for all that they endure.

~ from the book Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition by Christine Pohl

Nov 13, 2010

A Scroll of Remembrance

"A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name."  Malachi 3:16

Perhaps you’re tired and weary. Overwhelmed by your marriage, family and financial problems, worried about being popular and cool in school. Worried about grades. Maybe it seems like nothing is going right in your life.

Maybe this contributes to you being weary in well-doing. Haven’t we all been weary in well-doing at one time or another? I know I have. We get tired of the evil and hypocrisy in others and institutions and if we are honest, in ourselves. At those times, we get frazzled by the slowness of change. Painstakingly slow---incremental---change.

If we allow ourselves to continue in this vein, if we continue to focus on the evil and hypocrisy, and seeming prosperity of the wicked, without repentance, without reconsidering our life, and our thoughts and our ways, if we don’t cry out to God and others for help, our souls begin to fill with bitterness and resentment.

With our eyes off of Jesus, our perspective gets seriously off and we unknowingly mistake this new perspective for reality. Our attitude colors the world black and gray. We become cynical and spread the cynic’s poison. I once heard that cynicism is thinly veiled anger. So we become angry and contemptuous of others. Unbeknownst to us, we have climbed a high-horse. We’re self-righteous. We are cool and sophisticated, arrogantly condemning people with ease. We poke fun at the good people and the goodness we see and question even the apparently good motives of others. We elevate our opinion to the status of a god. We become miserable and make those around us miserable. Through our words and through our lives we declare, “It’s futile to follow Jesus, to believe the testimony of the Church throughout the ages.” But we hang around Christendom ‘cuz we’ve got nowhere else to go and nothing else to do.

Through our sinfully poisoned attitude and behavior, we manipulate others into having to walk on egg shells around us. Because well if they don’t, we’ll blast them, we’ll let them have it. God forbid they call us out and try to lovingly confront us. That’d be World War Three.

Said differently, we become what Scripture calls, hard-hearted. We become cold and hard toward God and others. We are hardened to life. If we allow such an attitude to continue, it’ll ruin us and become a force for evil in the lives of those surrounding us. And the thing is, everyone will know, but few if any will say anything to us. We’ve made it impossible for them to. They’re walking on eggshells don’t we know? Do we not see this in our churches and throughout the body of Christ? It is sad and in Christ, unnatural.

Now what I was just talking about is a pervasive attitude or bent that can enslave us to death if we are not vigilant. I wasn’t talking about the every-now-and then weariness in well-doing, when we want to throw in the towel. Maybe a lot of our weariness is due to over-commitment, lack of sleep, and not caring for our bodies. Still in our every-now-and-then weariness we can be miserable and make those around us miserable.

God hears the rumblings our hearts and words of our mouths. I think of Ezekiel 35:13 where he says, “You boasted against me and spoke against me without restraint, and I heard it.” But he is also very aware of joys, our trust, our fears, our strivings on his behalf. He is so aware that he records it.

I treasure the picture painted for us in the Malachi chapter three, “Then those who feared the LORD , talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard.” Their conversation warmed his heart, it gave him great joy to know that in the end, they trusted him, even when it seemed like they were suffering and the wicked around them were prospering. Their words about God, their humble posture towards him, delighted him. It delighted him so much, that he wrote an Ode to them. God Almighty, the King, called for a scroll. He called it the Scroll of Remembrance. Within his presence, the names of those who feared and honored his name, the names of those who were in awe of him, were recorded.

And God says to them in Malachi and to us throughout Scripture and history and life:

“Listen. I’ve seen all you’ve gone through because of me. I’ve heard your cries and prayers and laments. I’ve seen your suffering over evil in the world and because of evil in the world. I’ve seen how you remained committed to me in sickness and in health, in riches and poverty. You’ve cherished me. And I cherish you. Oh how I love you! You have worshiped me with your body, soul, mind, and strength, because you know me. You know that although you don’t have all the answers, and although you might wonder about my ways and sometimes angrily and exasperatedly shake your fists at me, because of the seeming senselessness of it all, you know that my ways are higher than your ways (Isaiah 55:8).

You know that I love you and all of my Creation (Psalm 145). You know that I am faithful and true (Revelation 19:11). You know that I will judge the world in righteousness and the people with equity (Psalm 198:9). You don’t boast in your wisdom. You don’t boast in your power. You don’t boast in your riches. You revel in truly knowing me and understanding that I am the LORD who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth. You revel in my delight in these things (Jeremiah 9:23,24).

You are convinced that I have not come to steal, kill, and destroy. That is the work of our enemy the devil. You are completely confident that I have come to bring life, abundant life (John 10:10). And I give my life to you and for you, that you may be whole. And you gladly pass on my life to others. You delight in me. Listen dear child, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its rays. The glory radiating from me illumines your path and your mind. With it, I blanket you, warming you and comforting you in the long cold winter. Because of your knowledge of me, because you are deeply aware of my love for you, you go out and frolic like well-fed calves (Malachi 4:2). Believe me my child, you will live to see the day when there is a clear distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not (Malachi 3:18).

 If you open your eyes now you can start to see it. You believe me when I say that I am for you and not against you (Romans 8:31), don’t you? I will open your eyes so you can see like Elisha and his servant. Remember how they were surrounded by the Arameans and his servant was scared that they’d get taken out? But what happened? I opened the servant’s eyes and what did he see? He saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire surrounding him and Elisha (2 Kings 6:17). My angels were encamped around them and they are around you. They are ministering spirits to the heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14).

You’ve trusted me wholly, and found me wholly true. I am making all things new, do you not see it springing forth? Yes you do. Oh how I delight in you delighting in me. I have kept you as the apple of my eye (Psalm 17:8), I have written your name on the palm of my hands (Isaiah 49:16a). And I have recorded your name on my scroll of remembrance. Your recorded name is an ode to you, to your perseverance and love. As you stand firm, you will win life (Luke 21:19).

Nov 10, 2010

Icons of God?

"Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality." Romans 12:9-13

She sat in my office voicing everything that she'd kept bottled up for years. "I internalize things," she told me. I sit and I listen. She asks, "Do you have any advice?" I  gently tell her what I tell myself and others: We cannot live the Christian life alone. And I tell her that I was honored that she'd even share with me. Then I encourage her to find trusted others to share with. Others who would share her joys as well as her pain. I can't remember where I read this or who said this (otherwise I'd attribute it to the person), but I remember reading that a person doesn't know us until they know what brings us joy. We share our lives with others--not just joys but pains, too. Real friends know our joy as well as our pain.

I remind her that although her struggle is unique, others suffer...others who have smiles pasted on their faces. In my work, I am in a unique position. Daily, people come to me, and I have the sacred privilege of peering behind the veil of their souls, of sharing my own journey, of living life together with them.
 Most of the time they think that no one else is suffering or is insecure. But I have a distinct vantage point; I can see that many are--only they don't disclose it to others. Over and over again, I see that no one has it all together. And many times the difference between those who are moving toward health and those that aren't is this: those who share their joys and suffering with others have a safety net--a web of support--those who bear their burdens and share their joys. Most frequently, they were first vulnerable. They had courage to reach out.

Often, I have to be the first to be vulnerable in a situation. The first willing to be humiliated and to share with trusted others. I find that what I dread the most--rejection because of what I share--seldom comes to fruition. Instead what I often find is love and least compassion.

The body of Christ should be a place where we can be transparent of our unraveling. Transparent in saying, "I am falling apart." Or transparent in saying, "I just got a promotion." We are to share each other's joys as well as each other's pain. The Church is the first place we should encounter invitation from God.

Are we inviting souls? Are we a spacious place? Do others have the confidence to approach God because we are approachable? Are we an icon of God in some mysterious way?

If you are lonely, feeling rejected, depressed or abandoned do reach out to someone that you find trusthworthy. Sadly, sometimes we find unbelievers who are more gracious and trustworthy than those who profess the name of Christ. We find that we cannot easily find living icons of God in the Church. That is profanity. Sacrilege.

Do you have someone you can share your little and big joys with?

Often it will involve you being vulnerable or saying, "Hey, I like you and respect you, let's be friends." I have done that many times and have been truly nourished and blessed with deep and lasting friendships.

Jesus had a circle of intimates--Peter, James, and John. Did he not show him his glory--his joy on the Mount of Transfiguration and also share his pain with them in Garden of Gethsemane and at Golgotha?

Nov 9, 2010

Those Who In Humility Depend On God

Hello Dear Ones. This morning I read this from Philip Kenneson's book Life On The Vine:

"Arrogance, pride, haughtiness. These attributes characterize those who through power and strength of will attempt to secure their own future well-being. By so doing, they deny their need for God. Israel is itself often characterized as stubborn or "stiff-necked" . . . . The image is telling: not only does it suggest stubborness but a refusal to bow to another's authority . . . . Opposing the Holy Spirit. Quenching the Spirit. These are dangers that must be avoided by anyone who desires to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit. In the above contexts these dangers arise on account of our stubborn pride and our desire to secure our own futures apart from God.

Rather than placing our trust in ourselves and our own abilities, God calls us to humble ourselves and place our hope and trust in God and the kingdom that God is ushering in. The kingdom is an upside-down kingdom, where God's order is restored by reversing or inverting the order routinely instituted by human beings. The kingdoms we construct almost always exalt the rich, the powerful, the proud and the aggressive."

pp. 201-202

Nov 5, 2010

Beholding God I

Probably the most important thing you can do in your life is to keep your gaze on God. Behold God.  Pay attention to God, focus on God in every possible way. You will have abundant life (John 10:10). You will become whole, holy--like Christ--conformed into his image (Romans 8:29). But how might you and I do that? I will post on that soon. I alluded to it the other day when I posted Charles Wesley's words about a single eye toward God.

I believe this is the most important thing I can tell you.

May you be filled with his shalom.

Nov 3, 2010

A Single Eye Towards God

" His one desire, is the one design of his life, namely, 'not to do his own will, but the will of Him that sent him' His one intention at all times and in all things is, not to please himself, but Him whom his soul loveth. He has a single eye. And because "his eye is single, his whole body is full of light." Indeed, where the loving eye of the soul is continually fixed upon God, there can be no darkness at all, 'but the whole is light; as when the bright shining of a candle doth enlighten a house." God then reigns alone. All that is in the soul is holiness to the Lord. There is not a motion in his heart, but is according to His will. Every thought that arises points to Him, and is in obedience to the law of Christ."

~ John Wesley

Nov 2, 2010

The Land of Peace and Quiet

"Choose evermore rather to have less than more. Seek ever the lower place and to be under all. Desire ever to pray that the will of God be all and wholly done. So, such a one enters the land of peace and quiet."

Thomas A'Kempis