Sep 28, 2011

Measuring Delight

Oh how our views about God siffon off the eternal life that is waiting to burst forth in and through us!  But here's an image for you and for me, one we should contemplate for our good.

God our dear father has placed a huge box in front of us. It is a shiny gold box, quite large, with a  royal red bow carefully and lovingly tied to it. It's one of those beautiful fancy bows. Our father is eager and expectant in his anticipation, giddy as he waits for us to unwrap the gift. Using Father Greg Boyle's words, God can't wait to "measure our delight." As we peek into the box, we'll be floored by an untamable never-ending joy. We will with our father throw our heads back in delight, mouths agape with the laughter of joy and goodness. Laughter will wrack our bodies, our bellies will quake, mouths will hurt from the perpetual grin, and tears will stream out of our eyes because of his almost incredible goodness to us. We can barely believe it, but it's true. This is the way of our God, our Father. And this gift is not just for the life to come.

The gift is sitting before us. We can unwrap it moment by moment.

Contemplate the image, the image of our giddy joyful father full of expectation, waiting for us to open the gift of eternal life.Can you see the delight in his eyes?

Remember what he said to the older brother in the story of the prodigal? "All that I have is yours." He is our father. Everything he has is ours. Are we immersing ourselves in all that is ours, using it, relishing it, delighting in it? In 2 Peter 1 he tells us that he has given us everything we need for life and godliness.

God is not stiff, cold, stingy, or uncaring. He is our father whose love for us makes him giddy with joy because he delights in us so. He provides.

Receive the gift of eternal life (life now and forevermore) and all its implications--the fruits of the Spirit--justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 4:17b).

Receive his gift and provision.

The gift of abudant eternal life.

Sep 26, 2011

The Basics

We get all out of sorts all of the time don't we? Disoriented. We wonder where God is at, wonder why there seems to be no deepening in our relationship with him or much goodness blossoming in the world. Instead of walking away from the person we were a moment ago we find ourselves walking toward the person we don't want to be--walking toward the person we were a moment ago.

Why is it that we find ourselves constantly in such a state, a state where there seems to be no growth in grace? Well, obviously there is not a simple answer, but I think I can add a piece to the puzzle of the answer. A piece that you and I are familiar with, but one that we need to be reminded exists.

It could be that our perceptions are just jazzed up or it could be failure to engage in the basics.

The basics. You know how eight hours sleep, healthy eating, and excercise are of great help in living a salutatory life? Likewise so are the basics of prayer, solitude, fellowship, service, confession of sins, the reading of Scripture, and celebration of great help in the spiritual component that makes up our life.

The problem is, it's so hard for us to do the basics in the physical part of our life as well as in the spiritual part of our life. They are both part of the same life and so I don't want to dis-integrate them. Our physical part of life affects our spiritual part of life and vice versa.

So why don't we pray for grace to do the basics?  Pick one thing? It's impossible to change all at once. But God working through us and in conjunction with decisions of our will--does bring about change.  Little by little.

I encourage you and myself to pick one of the basics and ask God for grace to make it a habit in our lives. The more of the basics that we practice the more peace and stability in our lives. May this truth travel what appears to be the short distance between our heads and our hearts.

Sep 16, 2011

Henri Nouwen - Downward Mobility

"The compassionate life is the life of downward mobility! In a society in which upward mobility is the norm, downward mobility is not only discouraged but even considered unwise, unhealthy, or downright stupid. Who will freely choose a low-paying job when a high-paying job is being offered? Who will choose poverty when wealth is within reach? Who will choose the hidden place when there is a place in the limelight? Who will choose to be with one person in great need when many people could be helped during the same time? Who will choose to withdraw to a place of solitude and prayer when there are so many urgent demands from all sides?

My whole life I have been surrounded by well-meaning encouragement to go 'higher up,' and the most-used argument was : 'You can do so much good there, for so many people.' But these voices calling me to upward mobility are completely absent from the Gospel. Jesus says: 'Anyone who loves his life loses it; anyone who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life (John 12:25). He also says: 'Unless you become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 18:3). Finally he says: "You know that among the gentiles the rulers lord it over them, and great men make their authority felt; among you this is not to happen. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be your slave, just as the Son of Man came, not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:25-28).

This is the way of downward mobility, the descending way of Jesus. It is the way toward the poor, the suffering, the marginal, the prisoners, the refugees, the lonely, the hungry, the dying, the tortured, the homeless--toward all who ask for compassion. What do they have to offer? Not success, popularity, or power, but the joy and peace of the children of God."

From Here and Now pp. 138-139

(Repost from May 2010)

Sep 10, 2011

Properly Ordered Love

This is from my friend Karen Swallow-Prior.

In On Christian Doctrine, St. Augustine defines justice as loving things in proper measure. In Book One of that work, Augustine writes,

Now he is a man of just and holy life who forms an unprejudiced estimate of things, and keeps his affections also under strict control, so that he neither loves what he ought not to love, nor fails to love what he ought to love, nor loves that more which ought to be loved less, nor loves that equally which ought to be loved either less or more, nor loves that less or more which ought to be loved equally.

Sep 5, 2011

Godliness With Contentment

Paul says that godliness with contentment is great gain. Having the character of God with contentment in God is soul-wealth. But can we manufacture our own contentment?

Not really.

However, we can cultivate a posture and discipline of gratitude. And we can surrender our fears, our discontentment, and sometimes accutely painful present to God. In my last post, I wrote: "the key to peace is surrender." It was something I believe Dallas Willard (or one of our retreat directors) said.

Ever since I reread that statement in my journal I decided, to the best of my ability, to practice the surrender of a particular pain and dissatisfaction. Sometimes daily, sometimes moment by moment surrender has been required of me.

But, I wanted to report to you that the insight is correct. Peace follows our surrender. I surrendered and continue to surrender this particular circumstance. For full disclosure, it has taken me five years to get to the point where I comprehend what it means for me to surrender what has up until this point  been a thorn. Sometimes it takes a while for God to work in us and for us to work out our salvation with fear and treambling; purification isn't instantaneous.

For me it has meant kissing a dream good-bye. It means accepting the possibility that this dream may never materialize into reality. It means trusting that if the Lord chooses not to grant me this desire that he is and will continue to fill me with shalom without granting me this desire.

I've been very content, more joyful, and thankful.

Very little has changed in my outward circumstances. But I do remember the song that the Taize Community sings from Romans chapter 4:  "The kingdom of God is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."

All this to say, more and more I am experiencing contentment with what I hope is godliness in my life. And it's not hit-and-miss contentment. This is not to say that I don't have my share of sadnesses. But there is this underlying shalom in my soul that is bubbling up like a spring. I do hope that it spills forth into my environment and to yours, too.

Remember, God is a peacemaker. He wants to bring contentment to your soul--Jesus says when we take his teaching or yoke upon us, and go to him, we'll find rest for our souls. In turn, as his shalom fills us, he uses us in his great world-wide divine conspiracy to overcome evil with good, to reconcile all things to himself. God desires to bring peace on earth, good will to all people. It's part of the good news that the angels proclaimed when Jesus was born. It is gospel.

Receive it.

Your peace and shalom has eternal implications not only for your own life, but for everyone and everything you touch.