Tuesday, March 31, 2009

When Doves Fly :: Becoming Who You Are...

Recently I was reflecting on my "personal paradigm" of spirituality. In other words, what are some of the broad underlying concepts that influence and shape how I see the with-God life lived and expressed. The following image illustrates this developing paradigm. Below the image is my interpretation of what some of the different elements are and what they convey.

Background: The background is a path in the woods with a destination that is unclear and unseen. Each of us is journeying down the path called life. There is much that surrounds it and though we may have some sense of direction where we're headed, generally it is somewhat unclear and unseen. We rest intimately knowing that God is on this pilgrimage with us. As Solomon said, “in all your ways acknowledge Him.” The beautiful thing about this passage is the Hebrew phrasing literally means, “in all of your journeys, no matter life leads you, intimately and experientially know God as a wife knows her husband.” This is a promise of an actual reality. The background is amply captured in one of my favorite quotes,

“The Journey is the Destination.”

The Hands: God is journeying with us. He is firm and sovereign, yet gentle and guiding. The left hand has a firm grip on the frame. He is committed to keeping us from falling. At the same time, His right hand, the hand that guides us is gentle and un-forced.

“The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.
When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,
Because the LORD is the One who holds his hand.”
(Psalm 37:23-24)

The Frame: has at least two opposite meanings. On the one hand, life is often reduced to a stagnant and flat one-dimensional existence. This isn’t what life was intended to be. Unfortunately, for many, this is the only reality they’ve ever know. It may very well seem “normal,” but in essence the hands of life have been tied and our true self has been left hanging in the closet.

On the other hand, the frame represents our God initiated efforts. Patterns and practices that when intentionally engaged become the framework for the Spirit of God to move and transform us and release us into a vibrant three-dimensional reality.

The Dove: Represents a person fully alive. A person who is aware of God's present activity, as well as the sacredness of the present moment. It is a reality of being sensitive to the promptings and influence of the Holy Spirit within the everyday moments of life. Such a life is characterized by a sense of freedom, joy, wonder, mystery and adventure. This is a life lived in-the-Spirit, the with-God life.

What image would you use to communicate your personal paradigm?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Understanding Dreams: Recognizing God's Voice in the Night

Last night, we finished up a 3-week learning experiment, The Art of Hearing God & Speaking to Others. Some of the stories that began to emerge were inspiring. God is present and active within our daily circumstances, unfortunately, often we are simply unaware.

There is another place God is present that we are often unaware... Our sleep.

The average person dreams multiple times each night. Is there more to a dream than too much pizza or the stress of one’s day? Throughout Scripture God uses dreams often to speak to His people. Chances are He’s speaking to you through dreams as well.

Join us for a two-week study in understanding dreams, what the mean and how God speaks to us through them.

Understanding Dreams: Recognizing God's Voice in the Night
Dates: March 25 & April 1
Time: 7:00-8:30
Place: Southgate Church

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Breastplate

This prayer is often called "St. Patrick's Breastplate."

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through the belief in the threeness,
Through the confession of the oneness
Of the Creator of Creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with his baptism,
Through the strength of his crucifixion with his burial,
Through the strength of his resurrection with his ascension,
Through the strength of his descent for the Judgment Day.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of Cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In prayers of patriarchs,
In predictions of prophets,
In preaching of apostles,
In faith of confessors,
In innocence of holy virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.

I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of demons,
From temptations of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone and in multitude.

I summon today all these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel merciless power that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul.

Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me abundance of reward.
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the threeness,
Through confession of the oneness,
Of the Creator of Creation.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Free Audio Book: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life

Every month Christian Audio sponsors a free audio book download.

This month's feature is Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney. Below is the sites write up on the book.

It's not uncommon for an accomplished musician to be able to sit down in front of a new piece of music and play it through without a hitch. To make it seem easy, as if it required no effort. Yet the "freedom" to play with such skill comes only after years of disciplined practice.

In the same way, the freedom to grow in godliness---to naturally express Christ's character through your own personality---is in large part dependent on a deliberate cultivation of the spiritual disciplines.

Far from being legalistic, restrictive, or binding, as they are often perceived, the spiritual disciplines are actually the means to unparalleled spiritual liberty. So if you'd like to embark on a lifelong quest for godliness, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life will help you on your way. Based on the rich heritage left us by the early church fathers, the Puritan writers, and Jesus Christ Himself, Whitney takes you through a carefully selected array of disciplines that includes Scripture reading, prayer, worship, Scripture meditation, evangelism, serving, stewardship, Scripture application, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning.

By illustrating why the disciplines are important, showing how each one will help you grow in godliness, and offering practical suggestions for cultivating them on a long-term basis, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life will provide you with a refreshing opportunity to embrace life's greatest pursuit---the pursuit of holiness---through a lifelong delight in the discipline

Thursday, March 12, 2009

I Just Showed Up for My Own Life...

St. Irenaeus, a bishop who a saint who lived in the 2nd century said, "The glory of God is a man fully alive." Often our senses are dulled to the present because of our attachments to the past or our infatuations with the future. These attachments, infatuations and mere busyness cause us to live (at least in our hearts and minds) some place other than the here and now. In essence we are absent from our own existence. Yet, life can only be lived in the present.

The French Jesuit priest Jean-Pierre De Caussade used the phrase, even wrote a piece called The Sacrament of the Present Moment.

“The present moment,” he writes, “holds infinite riches beyond your wildest dreams but you will only enjoy them to the extent of your faith and love. The more a soul loves, the more it longs, the more it hopes, the more it finds. The will of God is manifest in each moment, an immense ocean which only the heart fathoms insofar as it overflows with faith, trust and love.

Poet and Song-writer Sara Groves amazing and insightful. One of my favorite songs that I’ve been listening to over and over lately is “Just Showed Up For My Own Life.” I absolutely love this song. Though the style of the song isn’t my favorite, the lyrics are simply brilliant. They have become my prayer during this season of my life.

Lyrics to Just Showed Up For My Own Life

Spending my time sleep walking
Moving my mouth but not saying a thing
Hoping the changes would take by working their way from the outside in
I was in love with an idea
Preoccupied with how a life should appear
Spending my time at the surface repairing the holes in the shiny veneer

There are so many ways to hide
There are so many ways not to feel
There are so many ways to deny what is real

And I just showed up for my own life
And I'm standing here taking it in and it sure looks bright

I'm going to live my life inspired
Look for the holy in the common place
Open the windows and feel all that's honest and real until I'm truly amazed
I'm going to feel all my emotions
I'm going to look you in the eyes
I'm going to listen and hear until it's finally clear and it changes our lives

There are so many ways to hide
There are so many ways not to feel
There are so many ways to deny what is real

And I just showed up for my own life
And I'm standing here taking it in and it sure looks bright

Oh the glory of God is man fully alive
Oh the glory of God is man fully alive

There are so many ways to hide
There are so many ways not to feel
There are so many ways to deny what is real

And I just showed up for my own life
And I'm standing here taking it in and it sure looks bright

You can listen to the song here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Sabbath :: Stepping Out of the Traffic

We live in a culture addicted to speed, enamored with glitter and the drive to acquire more and more stuff. Busyness is a badge of honor that ushers in a sense of unprecedented importance, at least we tell ourselves. We are constantly being shown images of what we are to aspire to be like in order to gain significance.

Conversely, Sabbath reminds us that we already have enough and that the true essence of life is known as we begin to pause and move in slow motion. As we make room for Sabbath, we find a great exchange transpires. In reality, it isn’t so much us that keep the Sabbath, rather it is the Sabbath that keeps us.

Our culture says, go faster, yet deep inside we know that we can never go fast enough. One of the things that stuck out to me was the statement, “Sabbath is not dependent upon our readiness to stop. We do not stop when we are finished. We do not stop when we complete our phone calls, finish our project… We stop because it is time to stop.” There are those things that have to be done, yet there is a time to simply “stop,” and rest and breath and be.

More and more, I’m finding this not only helpful, but absolutely necessary. On several occasions lately, I've fantasized about creating some antithesis of the remote used in the movie "Click." Rather than fast-forwarding through the undesirable moments of life, this remote would pause moments, allowing them to roll forward in slow motion.

Sabbath is about learning the art of pausing long enough to become aware of the Presence in the present moment.

"Step out of the traffic!
Take a long, loving look at me,
your High God,
above politics,
above everything."
(Psalm 46:10 MSG)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Sabbath :: It's Time to Stop

We live in a culture enchanted by facile slogans and fast food appetites. Under the spell of speed, we are desperately in need of something sacred. In a time of exponential hurriedness, we wear busyness as a token of significance. We are in need of a new sense of rhythm, a slowing, a Sabbath. Without such a sabbath rhythm, we are often absent from our own existence.

Sabbath isn’t just the absence of doing, it is the presence of being. It isn’t merely not working, it is actively resting. It is a time where we cease to create, so that we ourselves may in a sense be re-created. It’s a time to listen, hear, see, sense and reflect on that which is beautiful and in such awareness allow thankfulness, prayers and joy emerge from deep within.

Sabbath is about setting aside all that is expected to get done, in order to embrace the unexpected. It’s less about a day on the calendar and more about the disposition of the heart throughout the moments of our daily existence.

The pace of busyness has slowly calloused our hearts and blinded our understanding of who we have been created to be and the “worth” we are to embody. Slowly we have come to develop our footing more on “self-esteem,” derived from what we can extract out of the busyness, rather than resting in our worth as one simply loved by God. “Sabbath,” writes Wayne Muller, “is not dependent upon our readiness to stop.” If we wait until all our work is completed in order to stop and engage Sabbath, we will never stop, at least until we are dead. Sabbath reminds us that the toils of our work and spinning of our days have very little to do with the sustaining of the earth and all that is good. God sustains all and is in all. Slowly as we inhale, we begin to shed the tyranny of guilt that seeks to strangle and suffocate all the life out of rest. Sabbath can be experienced at any time and in any place, but the rhythm of life indeed was designed to experience one.

For quite some time, I’ve lived with an eternal “to do” list. In fact, on most days, the list seems to be getting longer, rather than shorter, regardless of how fast and long I toil. I was struck by Muller’s word about Sabbath being “a prescribed moment, it is time to stop. We cannot wait until we are finished, because we are never finished.” I’ve cognitively known this to be true, but recently I’ve began to embody that a little better with my life rhythms

Recently, I’ve been reflecting on what Sabbath really looks like for me and my family. With our schedule the past several months, the “when” has been just as challenging. Yet, there must be time to simply stop and back up. I found some of the reflections at the end of the chapters in Muller’s book thoughtful and useful as I look more and more at my weekly rhythms. There are areas where I can grow in seeing Sabbath(s) more integrated into my daily motions, as well as an extended period of time weekly as I practice the art of stepping back, pausing and recognizing all that is good.

(Referenced quote from, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, & Delight in Our Busy Lives by Wayne Muller)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Absent from our Own Existence.

Some people simply miss life in the present due to spending too much time on the past or the future. While this is true, I think many more in our current age, miss much of life in the busyness of the present. This has often been the case for me. I very rarely, if ever grovel in the past or fret over the future. Rather, I find myself so busy in the present, that I can be prone to not be present there. In the midst of moving briskly from one thing to another I can bypass the deep currents of my heart, the sacredness of a moment and the whisper of God’s voice. Such busyness causes our hearts to become calloused. We become absent from our own existence.

This is a reality that I’ve wrestled with for the past several years. I've written several posts dealing with our enchantment and addiction to speed, how we need to Learn to Pause and learn to live in Slow-Motion. I know God is present and actively involved in my day and I long to grow more and more in my attentiveness, awareness and response to it. Over the past four or five years, I’ve been learning to halt and take notice in times of busyness, especially times where I find the very word “busy” being my patent answer to those who inquire, “How’s it going?”. Wayne Muller in his book “Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Busy Lives,” reminds us how the ancient Chinese saw the poisonous effects of busyness. The Ancient Chinese have long had insight into this that the West has yet to discover. The ancient Chinese pictograph for the word busy is made up of the symbols/pictures heart and killing.

This image has been a reoccurring visual for me in these seasons. It's a powerful image, a reminder of what’s happening deep inside when I simply don’t live in “slow motion” with space to capture God’s movements and the essence of the one before me.

In these moments, more and more, I’ve learned when I engage, I truly become more attentive and aware. Though I can still be prone to move at the speed of life, I’ve become significantly more discerning of when I’m doing so, enabling me to slow-down and actually experience life itself.