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Window or Mirror? Voice or Echo?

From time to time, I hear preachers rail against “Culture”! Culture, it seems, is the great buggaboo of the day. Culture seems to take a great deal of the responsibility for our consumerism, our hedonism, our sexual promiscuity, the delinquency of our youth, and the excesses of our elders. Proof seems easy to procure, just turn on the television any evening, listen to the radio, check out the internet or social media.

“CULTURE!”… the fingers point and voices bellow. “All we need to do to garner God’s blessing and be the Christian people we’re supposed to be… is REJECT THE CULTURE of our times!”

Simple, no?

Just listen to the “right” radio stations, watch the “right” television networks, buy the “right” kind of fried chicken, hang out with the “right” kind of people… Insulate ourselves against our Pagan Culture and everything will be fine, right?

Well, there’s good news and bad news on this. The bad news is that such a view pretends that “Culture” has an identity, a face, a voice and mind of its own. If only “Culture” were an actual THING, PERSON, BEING, that we could label, relate with, and reject, that would be one thing. BUT…

If you hark back to high school social studies, or college sociology, you may recall that “Culture is defined by the norms, values, and mores of a people in a particular place and time.” There’s “material culture”, as dug up by archaeologists… the stuff of a people, preserved over time. And there’s “non-material culture”, such as music, tales, poetry, mythologies… and the ideas passed down through time of a people.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This has a very short and simple bottom line…

When we rant, rail and preach against our “Culture”… we try to batter upon a shadow. Culture is not a voice, but an echo of ourselves. Culture does not have a face, it is a reflection of our own projections. The values promoted through media, are the values WE PAY TO SEE AND HEAR. All media depend on money to operate, and the people paying are you, and me, and him, and her, and them. Media broadcast and print what we, as consumers, are willing to pay to see, hear, and read.

What’s the good news? The values portrayed are a critically important window to who we really are… to what we really do. That is incredibly valuable information to have and understand.

Want to change the Culture? Then change the appetites of people. Become more reflective about what amuses and entertains us. Let this not just be a matter of “image”, but a true matter of heart! Clergy, when away from home on business trips to pastoral conferences, are among the most hearty consumers of pay-per-view porn in hotel lodgings.

How do we address and improve situations we refuse to acknowledge? How to we improve a culture we refuse to take responsibility for?

I don’t offer answers, nor am I trying to change your mind or view… but I hope I encourage a new perspective and raising questions.

Ponder… is Culture an enemy’s face and voice? Or is it the reflection and echo of our own?

Grace to you, Gentle Reader.

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Posted by on February 15, 2017 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

What is Sin… Really?

accountability pageYou see this article on “Accountability”, and read this Inventory List for Conscience. It helps you know how and when you’ve “sinned” so you can get forgiveness for it. And your heart responds that there’s value to this, it isn’t “bad”… but somehow you feel it hasn’t quite hit the mark.

USCCB You do more research, you find a Catholic treatment for the Examination of Conscience, and you look it over. Again, not that it’s “bad”, but it just doesn’t seem to scratch the itch in your spirit as you ponder the questions of living in righteousness, versus committing sin. Somehow, virtue and sin don’t seem so cumbersome, so convoluted.

You decide to teach on this topic, and so you begin…

Sin… righteousness… love… peace… one day you are sitting and pondering, studying, working on a lesson or a sermon, and you find yourself grieving, praying, seeking how effectively to communicate something you see in your heart as so simple… You lean back, your brow furrows, your eyes close for a moment…

And suddenly, you no longer seem to be at your desk… You realize that God has heard your heart and your prayers, and He is going to teach you something, show you something, to help you understand and teach…

You find yourself standing out in a large empty space, dim but not utterly dark, neutral neither warm nor cold, with just a sense of vastness, not fearful or threatening. There in the distance you see light on the horizon and you choose to walk towards it. Startled with surprise, you find that each step moves you very far, as if your will moves you forward by thought, not physics.

As you approach closer to the light that a moment before was on the horizon, you realize that you are about to look upon the Father… God… the Almighty over All. Somehow, you know you are at the very Beginning, the Before the Beginning. This, is the Void, the Formless Void, and God (in whatever form and manner you perceive Him/Her) is smiling in welcome at your arrival. Amazingly, when He smiles, He smiles all over… His eyes, His hands, His heart… all welcomes you, and you stand just steps away from Him, unsure of whether to look up or down, to bow or to stand.

He takes your hand, raises your chin, smiles, and simply says, “Behold…”

He turns towards the Void around Him, extends His arms, and the radiance from His heart moves outwards reaching to touch all around Him. You realize, you are watching Creation. As you stand there, awestruck, you know that matter and energy have come into Being.

With another sweeping gesture, His arms raise again, and with a pulsing motion forms take shape all around you, near and far. You see planets, stars, sand, rocks, the forms of grass, trees, even animals. But all seems still.

“Now watch…” He says with a smile, as He turns to you, then back to His work.

You see a richer glow begin at His heart, as it flows upwards and outwards through His arms and fingers. You know, without knowing how you know, that He has just brought forth Life… and you see all these living things now begin to move.

Then, in a way you cannot describe, you see Him touching all of this… Everything… all at the same moment, and you realize that He is loving, He is feeding, He is upholding… All that is. All that He has created. That all of this is from Him, part of Him, has come from Him and is yet Him and His.

He turns to you again, and says… “Here is the best part…”

Again He faces His creation and the glow from His heart moves out through both His hands and His lips as He sings forth music unspeakable. Now there appear… “children”… is the word that goes through your mind. You hear Him sing, “My Children”. And you see that He is singing forth everyone, everywhere, everywhen. The beauty of it all leaves you breathless.

He turns to you again, reaches forth, and puts His hand on your chest.

You are filled with warmth, as a glow lights you up and flows outwards from your heart through every part of your being. You can feel and see that this warmth, this glow, are extending themselves from your heart outwards to your hands, and upwards to your tongue and lips.

You feel moved, without knowing why, and you embrace Him… God… the Father… the Lord of All. Fear doesn’t even enter your mind, though you’d never have imagined doing such a thing before. And He returns the embrace, kisses you on the top of the head, and you are filled with a fullness of love, safety, and nurturance such as you have never known before. You realize, for the first time all the way through you, that He is truly, utterly, and only Good… and you never need doubt, never need ever but to trust Him completely forevermore.

He directs your gaze to the world we know. And He bids you observe His children, their hearts, hands, and lips.

As you look at the world, you see people. Myriads of people… good, bad, young… old… confident, frightened, hurting, healing… You see all kinds of people, doing all the kinds of things people do.

You see some people with dim hearts, laying hands on other people who glow a bit, and where they touch their hands glow as the object of their touch grows dimmer. The heart of the takers has a reddish dim glow, while children start with brilliant white and gold.

Here and there you see clusters of brilliance, often among whom are hearts that reach out with pulsing connection with this heart of God alongside you. You see that God continues to touch, to nurture, to maintain all His children, all these people. But there are vast differences among individuals how they respond to His touch.

Some people welcome, embrace, and reach towards it. Others simply receive it without response or seeming to notice Him. While still others, those with the dimmest glow, seek to avoid His touch and His love and life (for you realize these all are one in Him).

But as you watch longer, you see that everyone, even the most golden or brilliant, have moments when their hearts flash red, and they touch others with a dimming effect. And much touching seems not to have impact. And some touching, brings light to others and eases their way.

“What am I seeing, Father? (or Lord?)” you ask.

“You are seeing the answer to your questions, My child. Righteousness, sin, virtue, love, life… all of it. It is as simple as ‘relationship’… with Me, with others, with yourself. I, and Only I, give life through love. That is all I do, always. And life only comes through love. But children of free will as you are, you may choose at any given moment to GIVE life through loving another and giving from Me through your heart, your hands, your words… to love another and so give them life. Or, you may choose to TAKE life from another, deprive, neglect, injure, or wound another… diminishing their life, feeding upon them, to love yourself.

“It is quite simple, but very difficult to put in words. Nothing living stands still. Life requires consumption. I Alone am the source of life. I alone can feed you with love, life, and being. When you feed from Me, (I once expressed this as ‘eat My body’), I can fill you utterly and beyond. Water that you never thirst again, bread that you never die. To let Me fill you, and then to pass along such love, such life, such abundance to those around you through your heart… this is love, this is righteousness, this is virtue.

“But to choose instead to feed on others, to love the self at the expense of others, is to deprive them of life. This is to consume others for the sake of the self. Whether materially, or emotionally… to feed the ego by belittling others and making them smaller, is no less a taking of their life as to wound them physically. This is predation. This is vampirism. This… is sin.

“Not only is it wrong, for it takes life from another. It is also ineffective. You cannot truly live on ‘second hand life’. Only I Alone can give full life through love. To steal the life of another will never fill or sustain a person. It can barely maintain them. Eventually, such predation leaves only the empty shell of a life.

“Sin leaves you empty and hungry, no matter how much you grasp or take. Like ’empty calories’, there is no real life to it. The hunger gnaws, and will continue to do so until real life, real love, real Light is found.

“So there you are, Blessed child. To give life to others through love of them and Me, is righteousness. To take life from others for love of yourself, without Me, is sin. Any questions?”

You shake your head, a bit bewildered. This really is quite simple. He hugs you again, kisses you atop the head, and your eyes open…

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

You are again seated at your desk wondering how in the world you can ever find the words to explain this.

Then you remember, Jesus said,Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man.” [Matthew 15:17-20]

And you get it… everything is sacred. It is ALL held together in His hands, His heart, His love. To treat anything, especially ANYONE… as less than sacred… to fail to love anything or anyone that He died to redeem in the greatness of His love… Yeah, that’s just not OK. You get it now. Righteousness is treating sacred things that He loves as precious. Not to do so… well, yeah, that’s sin. And we do it, because sometimes we choose to… but still He breathes us, He touches us, He loves us… and thus, He lives us.

“Ain’t that somethin’?”  you ponder, silently…

 
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Posted by on December 6, 2016 in Quiet Time, Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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Tearing his costume off!

costumeIt’s that time of year again… Halloween… with all the “Harvest Festivals” and “Trunk or Treat” alternatives.

But as Christians we have such a diversity of “views” regarding Satan, the Adversary, the Devil.

For some, there’s a casual nonchalance… like, “well, you know, life goes on and I don’t know how any of this religious stuff works so… whatever.” For others there’s a nearly unhealthy terror and fascination about darkness stuff, almost like the constant making of gestures to ward off the “evil eye” of the Enemy, lurking in every dark corner.

This Halloween, I just want to put something out there with which you are welcome to agree or disagree, embrace or cast away as you feel led…

If we accept that the scriptures of the Holy Bible are true, then we accept that “intelligent others” exist… including both angels and demons. We are told that Lucifer exists. We understand that creatures of darkness, demons, roam the world and seek our harm. All right then. That is a simple statement of fact, one fact of life, not to be focused upon to the exclusion of all else. In fact, a great deal of the impact of the Incarnation and coming of Jesus’ Kingdom has to do with His having freed us from that dominion and domination.

Nonetheless, we “deal with the devil” every day in some form or another. He seeks to rob us of our joy, our peace, our focus on love, light, and truth. THAT is his primary purpose. Not simply to “get us to do bad stuff of darkness”, but rather to “stop us from focus on light and good”.

I once had a pastor phone me and ask, “Is it necessary to name a demon in order to cast it out? Do you have to know its name?”

My immediate answer, thinking he was involved in some ministry of major occult deliverance, was, “Um, no. In fact, you seldom know the name, unless they reveal it. In general, we know the names of very few demons, and the studies needed to acquire that knowledge are not ones I recommend to anyone unless called to that type of ministry very specifically. Why do you ask? What is the need?”

And he went on, clarifying… He did not mean specific entity name, he meant things like,  lust, or greed, or covetousness, and so on.

Ah, I got it. Well, the answer, in my experience, was pretty much the same. When temptation is consistent and methodical, and a spirit is oppressing one’s soul, the real “power and authority” for its dismissal is that of Christ, of love, of light, and the power of the Cross. One releases one’s hold on the temptation, rebukes the darkness itself, and grasps Jesus instead. Often, one may not even recognize what the darkness was, until it is gone and light fills that part of the heart. There may simply be the sense of something being “off”… or the recognition that one’s heart and attitude is far from that of Christ within. Then, back away from that shadow, release it, rebuke it, and intentionally turn towards light, love, and Christ. When one is under the influence of the shadow itself, the discernment can be fuddled, and recognition impossible.

We deal with such mundane interactions with shadow all the time. We take them in stride.

But we seldom recognize them as “suits” or “costumes” worn by the Enemy, Satan, the Adversary, the Devil.

If we did, at least many of us, would run off screaming in terror. (Please note: the enemy certainly DOES do some more “dramatic manifestations”, especially when doors are opened through occult or arcane practices. Recommendation? Don’t do those things.)

But this Halloween I just wanted to take a moment and recognize that the pitchfork, horns, and pointy tail costume of the “scary Devil” is far less common than his ordinary business suit, flowered frock, or jeans and T-Shirt. We’re perfectly willing to recognize the Enemy in the dramatic, but far less likely to grant him the credit he deserves in the mundane. Even though it’s still well and truly him and his who are at work.

Here’s the Apostle Paul with some timely teaching to the Galatians…

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. [Galatians 5:13-26]

That’s not a bad list of “Devil Suits”. And we see them all the time, don’t we? In our homes, our communities, even our churches? Paul gives the antidote, even before naming the toxins…

Love your neighbor as yourself, and SERVE one another in that love. (Bear in mind, the Lord’s clarification of “who is my neighbor”.) Don’t freak out. Don’t get focused and fascinated. Just love, serve, and trust Jesus in both His authority and His love.

Let’s defrock the devil, and send him home!

Grace to you, Gentle Readers!

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2016 in Sermon Seeds

 

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Getting it “Right”

Back in the day, at the beginnings of my ministry life, but far enough along where I’d begun to question my own “omniscience”, I was privileged to intern under a very gifted teacher. I was quite driven, quite passionate, to “get it all right”. I wanted to be perfect, to make no mistakes, to minister the “right” way, with the touch, finesse, and wisdom I saw among so many of my elders.

(Been there? Remember those days?)

From time to time, more frequently than I care to remember, I fell short of this self-imposed standard. I came away from an encounter realizing that while it was “mostly right”, it “could have been better”. One or another place there had been a lack of grace, an injection of ego, or impatience, or my own content and wisdom rather than inspiration. These places would highlight in aftermoments, like “worn spots” or “scuffs” on the surface of an otherwise acceptable textile or leatherwork.

Time and time again, I would take such encounters in review to my mentor, with the question, “How would YOU have handled this? How could this have been better?”

He’d listen, carefully and prayerfully, without interruption… never a grimace of disapproval or disappointment crossing his features. Then he’d usually reach for his Bible and find a passage, and set it aside for the moment. He’d then speak, reviewing my narrative, agreeing and affirming what went “well”, and then highlighting and restating the “scuff mark” I was asking about. He always wanted to be sure that he’d rightly “heard” what someone thought they’d “said”. (These do not always match, I’ve since then learned.)

Then, he would teach two lessons. One was a lesson of “content“. He would, before we finished, address the specific question or issue I had come with. This lesson I had no trouble identifying, understanding, and implementing. But the other lesson… the other was a lesson of “context“. He would point out a fallacy in the way I envisioned the question and teaching paradigm. THIS lesson, this message, I consistently failed to identify, understand, or implement. Not until years later, when “all these words came back to me” and suddenly, it all made sense.

Amazing, isn’t it? Someone can repeat the same words to us, time and time again, but if we aren’t yet “ready to hear” them, they just don’t seem to impress themselves on the brain or in the memory? Such were these words, oft repeated to me…

“You ask how this could be done better, how you could minister more perfectly. That’s a great question, and we’ll address that. But, you ask ‘how would *I* have done this?’ Thank you for that, but that shouldn’t be your first or primary question. There is only One Perfect Minister, and He is within you and you have access to Him. The first question is, ‘how was He doing this…’ for the parts that you sense as ‘right’… and ‘how would He have done this’ for the other parts. A second approach, if we don’t know that answer, is to go to scripture and see how DID Jesus handle parallel situations, as shown through the gospels? I’ve never yet found a situation here, that He did not face there in some form or another. Once we look at THAT, have that exemplar of the Perfect Minister in mind, THEN, if it is helpful we can look at how I, or anyone else you learn from, might apply that lesson.

“Don’t look first at what *I* would do. For I, too, am frail and limited in my understanding. First look at how Jesus handles such things, and then… if application and example from my walk are helpful to illustrate, we can discuss that too. But I am not the exemplar of Perfect Ministry, He is. I am just another learner a bit further along the road.”

And we’d then begin to look at the specifics, look at the text of a parallel situation Jesus faced, and… often… he would share an illustration from his experience in applying the principle involved.

I always “got” the “content lessons”. I tended to make mistakes but once.

(My brother used to say, “The only person who makes no mistakes is a dead man. The trick is always to improve the quality of your mistakes.”)

But it took years before I actually caught on to the “context lesson”. The Holy Spirit who resides within us is the fullness of the Presence of Christ. He is not deaf/mute. He is not passive. He is not uni-directional, aiming and firing His divine nature towards the Father alone. He is Love, He is radiant (like radioactive), and He engages us in every way we are open to.

The more we can relax and flow with the love, care, and nurturance that are innate within the heart of God, the more clearly He can express Himself through us.

“Nothing missing, nothing broken. Graduated, complete and mature.” The meaning of “perfect” as in “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” So to be Christlike, to be Christ-ian, we seek to let Jesus be Jesus in and through us. There’s nothing wrong with that. There’s nothing “proud” or “arrogant” about that. We are not claiming that by dint of our efforts, intelligence, will, or righteousness, we can equal Jesus. Quite the opposite. We’re saying that by embracing our own weakness and “letting go” our own life, He can fill us with His.

So dare to reach towards “perfect ministry”. Don’t let false humility foreclose us at the starting gate. Just let us embrace the template and realization that it will be in the same model as Jesus did, and does. And that is thrilling to explore.

Question: For those who preach, teach, and guide… What would Jesus talk about in your pulpit, your podium, your classroom, or your study… this Sunday. (or this week?).

Open Mike Time………….

 

What’s Your Name?

How often do we pray… “Dear Lord… thank You for [fill in blessing]… and please [intention, intention, intention]. We ask this in the name of Jesus… Amen.”

We say or hear this as often as Christians gather, do we not? Nothing wrong with this at all.

But lately, over the past couple years, my “prayer circuit” has been modifying somewhat. I sense far less call to “direct God and His grace” through the micro-management of my prayer, and far greater call to “ride the wave” of His love and care from the voice of the Spirit within my heart, as He expresses Himself back to the Father. I guess you could say I “amen” Him, far more than generating my own words.

I have become vastly less concerned with “persuading God” to move in blessing with power and grace, and far more concerned with simply “loving” the object of my prayer, and experiencing that love in real live-time, with a view towards opening the windows of space/time to admit the power and grace God already has available.

It is very difficult to find the right words to express the difference here.

But I think it’s more a change of perspective, to where the task isn’t to “move God”, but rather to “authorize, permit, allow” the universe, this material world of “stuff”… to “accept the grace”, the blessing, the expression of God’s will.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Does “praying in Jesus’ name” mean that we tack this phrase (“we ask this in Jesus’ name”, or “we ask this in Your precious name”) on to the end of our own mentally generated list or intention addressed to God?

or

Does it mean that we ourselves step into the persona, the authority, the identity, the Spirit of Jesus the Christ, when and as we address Our Father?

Jesus told the Companion Disciples:

23 “In that day you will not question Me about anything. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. 25 These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request of the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came forth from the Father. 28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.” [John 16:23-28]

Now, up to that time Jesus had already taught the guys to pray, they knew the Lord’s Prayer, they’d been going out announcing Him, they’d been healing, they’d been casting out demons in His name.

Yet, He says that up to then they had asked for nothing in His name.’

jesuspraying

How is that possible?

I suspect that, just as so much of this discourse in John addresses the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost… so does this. What if, once one changes identity from “me in here, and Jesus out there” to “me in Him, and Him in me, and together we in the Father”… then the whole perspective, the nature, the authority of prayer itself changes?

What if one day we came to our prayer intentions with the attitude that when we put on our “prayer robes”, our “authority and identity of Jesus to pray”, that the Father has already said “Yes” to those intentions, and we apply our faith simply to move the material world to accept the blessings?

And… the world HAS to “move aside to accept”, simply because the universe must respond to the authority of Jesus, because He upholds it all within His will and His word?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

These struck me as strange thoughts one day, when I started wondering about all this. And yet, the Lord seemed to be leading this ponder step by step. He was challenging me to “pray in His name”… to “pray from WITHIN His name”. Pray as though I had taken on His name, as a wife typically takes on the name and authority of a husband. The two become one, different than either alone.

I had this image of the parting of seas, or mountains moving. I thought, “prayer can be that powerful”. But I wondered “why” and “how”. How does faith make prayer that powerful?

And for some reason I thought about police officers… A law enforcement officer pins on their badge, straps on a weapon, and begins work in a vehicle with siren and flashing lights. They are still the person they were when they woke that day, but… when they do their “function”, when they do what only they can do as sworn peace officers, they act “in the name of” the Law… the state, county, whatever. They are not just Joe, Jane, Bob, or Betty… they are authorized to stop, detain, arrest, or use adequate force to protect society.

Why is this so? Because they have entered into this relationship with the people, and the laws people create. What token marks this incredible responsibility, privilege, and authority? Their badge, their shield. And when they raise that shield above their heads in a crowd as they chase someone, shouting “Make WAY!”, or when those lights and siren go off behind traffic on the highway… we part, we pull over, we yield right of way… not so much to THEM, as to the BADGE they carry. To the function they are discharging. To the authority with which they are (in those moments) exercising.

Suddenly, oddly, I had this image of prayer working something like that.

When we function “in the name of Jesus”, we exercise an authority in prayer to which the material universe itself, the world, must yield.

Anyway, it makes for an interesting prayer experiment to approach prayer with some preparation of “taking up one’s token of authority”, and exercising our perquisites, our duty and privilege, to alter reality and usher forth grace and blessing… simply because it is what we are called to do, in those moments when we take on His name and act in His name.

Prayer Experiment…. Question: How would you pray today, if you knew… absolutely KNEW, that TODAY your prayers are uttered in the fullness of Jesus’ authority? As if He sat right alongside you, and petitioned Our Father for whatever you ask?

Would you pray any differently? Would you expect any different results than otherwise?

Grace and blessings to you, Gentle Reader!

 

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Spirituality of Letting Go:”The World”

From: Richard Rohr’s Daily Meditation

Living in this consumer-driven world, we are all deeply infected by what some call “affluenza,” a toxic and blinding disease with the basic assumption that more is always better and more of self is always good. It is fair to say that such invisible assumptions of any culture are as toxic and as blinding as the so-called “hot sins” of drunkards and prostitutes, though they are much harder to recognize as “sin” because we are all inside the same agreed-upon bubble.

John’s Gospel uses the words “the world” in precisely this way. John does not mean nature or creation; he means “the system”—as humans invariably construct it—which is all about security, status, pleasure, and power. These are not bad as such, but they are only limited goods, and most people let them become absolute goods—and that is when they do us in! They become gods or “idols.” John writes: “God did not come to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved” (see John 3:17).

This is indeed why so many of our saints speak about “leaving the world” or the normal systems of illusions. This dramatic beginning invariably ends up being much more subtle and difficult in real life. We finally have to learn to be “in the world but not of the world.” That is, we must compassionately accept the strange way we humans choose to operate and be willing to work inside it, but never really buy into it. We must see things for what they are and also for what they aren’t. Unless we in some way “leave the world,” I think we can safely assume we are utterly beholding to it.

Mature spirituality creates willing people instead of willful people. We slowly unfold in response to love and grace and freedom, rather than in mere reaction to the illusions of others. Without this insight, religion largely creates rigid, unhappy, and judgmental people. When we try to take charge of our own “enlightenment,” when we try to be fully in control of our own “purity” and superiority, our attitude becomes pushing and demanding—ego assertion, even if it looks like religious ego assertion. I think is what so many people rightly dislike and mistrust about religious people: in the name of the good, will power creates a well-disguised bad. Jesus was a master and genius at recognizing this problem.

Immature religion creates people who know what they are against, but have a very poor sense of what they are for. They are against sin, always as they narrowly define it; but they are seldom for love or actually for anything except the status quo where they think they are in control. This is indeed “the world” and will never get them very far if they are trapped within it—unless they recognize this same world as pervaded with heaven. For me, this is the genius of the Gospel. The world is good in its wholeness, but our little portion of separated parts is never the whole, so we must leave our addiction to the system to discover the Empire of God. We must always let go of full control over the parts to love and accept the whole.

Gateway to Silence:

Let be. Let love.

 

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About the Busy God

244px-messier-42-10-12-2004-filtered-e1401834586474 Over the past several months… off and on for a couple years, now… I have found the Lord capturing my mind, my prayer times, by one or another single word. A single concept that He seems to draw me into with such intensity and clarity that it’s as if He were “teaching class” to a student body of one alone. And upon return to the here-and-now of IRL (in-real-life), the experience of this time just changes everything, changes perspective, changes the standpoint from which I live.

One of these words has been “Infinite”. Another has been “Kingdom”. Another, “Beauty”.

For just a moment, I’d like to look at “Infinite” with you, and see if sometime you, too, will ride out to this wondrous zone where we can experience what we cannot possibly comprehend or certainly explain. Our “prayer maps” should include a border warning that says… “Caution: Beyond here there be Mysteries”… knowing that while we may get there, while we may experience them and survive, upon return our most sublime words will sound like incoherent babblings.

Let us start with an obvious proposition as we consider “Big”… Let’s look at Douglas Adams’ statement in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, that “Space is really big”.

Now, let’s try a thought experiment for just a moment: Think… “Infinite”… and “Big”. And then “Infinitely Big”. Just let your mind move to the Cosmos, and just keep expanding with the universe, and imagine all of that INSIDE GOD… no matter how far or how long you go outward. The mind will tend to numb fairly shortly, and that’s good.

But wait! There’s more! Now, think… “Infinite”… and “Small”. And then “Infinitely Small”. And let your mind move downwards in size, from Planets, and Stuff, and Mountains, to Hills, to Mounds, to Boulders, to Rocks, to Stones, to Pebbles, to Sand, to Grains, to Crystals, to Molecules, to Atoms, to Protons, to Electrons, to all those little oddly-named particle-wavy things we don’t know what they are, but they help hold everything together bits… and realize that God is on an intimate first-name basis with the smallest conceivable bit of reality that you can imagine! (And more than that…)

But wait! Let’s look at this another way! We’ve only been thinking of “space”… big and small. What about TIME?

When one is Infinite… how long is “a long time”? I mean, really… we think about the history of man, or the history of life, or the history of the planet we ride. And the mind boggles. But when we think of that against a backdrop of “Eternity”… really “Infinite Time”… that’s but an eyeblink. There is “no time” that applies to the Eternal. And, again, that goes the other way as well! How quick is “too fast” for the Infinite Eternal? I mean, a decision, a thought, an action, a movement, whether hours, seconds, nanoseconds… God can enter into any scale of time at all, even the pause between thoughts, decisions, aspirations in our own hearts and minds… as though they were separated by stops and starts.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now, I’ve said all of that in about 500 words. And yet, I can assure you, God has patiently worked with me on those things time and time again over a couple of years. The implications of the Eternal Infinite God are a mine of jewels that can never be adequately plumbed or exhausted. Why? Because while WE are limited in myriad ways… He is not. While WE have boundaries and edges… HE does not. We, as human beings, use religion to find “the rules”, the “definitions”, the “theologies” that will adequately describe, contain, and constrain Him. While HE simply “IS”.

I invite you to enter this ponder at your own pace, in your own way…

And, as far as a “practical application” for the “take away” to this post…

How many times have we prayed, or we hear someone else pray, “Dear Lord, I know You are really busy running the Universe and all. And I know that I’m just a simple nobody (or simple child) here with this little piddling problem. I know I don’t deserve Your time or attention, and I don’t mean to interrupt or bother You… but… if You don’t mind very much… I have this need/problem/concern/want that I’d like to pray for. So, if it’s OK with You, please…” whatever… “Amen”

So many think God has so much “important stuff” going on, and that we just barely rise to the level of His patient tolerance. We hear preachers tell us that He seeks true intimacy, that He desires nothing more than our company, that He is always there for us and to “pray always”. But we’ve grown up in a world, in relationships, in families… with “limited attention and time”… with “time management issues”… where we have to compete or excel to merit attention, praise, or companionship.

What is my heart’s desire that you “take away” from this post?

An Infinite Eternal God has MORE than “all the time in the world”, and “all the attention in the world” to lavish on His children. When you seek Him out, when you speak with Him, when you share your concerns (big or little, important or piddling) with Him… He ATTENDS! He is fully, totally, infinitely PRESENT in every single moment (long or short) that you spend with Him. (Truth be told, He is present in each moment that you breathe and live, whether you attend to Him or not.)

So… live in the “As If”… world. “As if He really loves you. As if He is really there. As if He is really listening, responding, and attending to your every need and your wholeness and wellness.”

Because, whether we know it or not, whether we acknowledge it or not… this is what it means to be Eternally Infinite God… and so He IS.

Grace to you, Gentle Reader!

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2016 in Sermon Seeds, Uncategorized

 

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