Thursday, March 31, 2011
depends upon which question we hear
until and unless we hear God asking
do you know I love you
we are unable to answer Jesus question
do you love Me
we cannot give what we have not received
only once we receive the love of God
can we give that love back to Jesus
for God's love is perfect
and Jesus deserves nothing less
if we only offer Jesus our imperfect love
this second love
that has been modeled for us
by parents, friends,
that is truly sad ...........
that is a religious love
from an anorexic body
words coming from a mouth
that has lost its taste for manna
bread still warm from the oven of intimacy
while visiting my children and grandchildren on the weekend
one of the youngest was playing with the French doors
there came a moment he inadvertently shut the door
could not figure out how to open it
and found himself separated from us
I snapped the picture
and knew immediately God was speaking
deep into my spirit
from birth to the age of five
I was fatherless
I had no daddy
at five there came a moment when I met my father
it took some time for a bonding to happen
I felt comfortable with the word father
with the person father
never had a daddy
it is only in the past few years I have realized
how much this has affected my relationship with my Father
I am comfortably forever bonded with my Father
but there is this small child in me
that yet longs for a Daddy
it is when the wings of my intellect are all folded into my heart
that this cry for Abba is loudest
and when I saw this picture
it showed me
that Abba is just on the other side of the door
I can even see Him
but this small child has not figured out how to open the door
the big me
the adult sized me
quickly joyously effortlessly
opened the door to my Father
but the small child of me
somehow cannot find the handle
cannot figure out how to open the door
and the cry is loud
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Monday, March 28, 2011
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Friday, March 18, 2011
just as a mirage in the desert gives a false sense of confidence that all will be well
my emotions can give me an exaggerated confidence in my faith
they work most powerfully in times of spiritual struggles
jumping in to quickly fix my pain
exhilaration feels much better than uncertainty and confusion
only when I withdraw into God’s care
I am sustained at a deep level
loved even when I can’t muster confidence or excitement
Monday, March 14, 2011
was Jesus asking
"do you love Me?"
only lately have I come to believe that a more important question
comes from God
and that is
"do you believe I love you?"
both questions contain the word "love" -
and until I/we understand what love is
both questions are difficult to answer honestly .....
my struggles in relationships are connected with what I like to call
the relationship between the 'first love' and the 'second love'
the first love is from God
who loved me before I was born
the second love is from my parents, brothers, sisters, friends
and is only a reflection of that first love
sometimes I expect from the second love
what only the first love can give
then I experience anguish
my personal struggle has always been
that I expected a first love
from someone who could only give a second love
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Saturday, March 12, 2011
Thursday, March 10, 2011
when everyone was told to stay out of the water
it was a glorious day
with miles of beautiful azure ocean in front of us
we were told there was a danger
a hidden danger
within the water
apparently related to the miles away oil spill of last April
heavy parts of the oil sank to the bottom
and now were releasing some sort of methane gas
which was floating on the surface of the water
almost invisible to the eye
with no odor whatsoever
it was there
and no one was sure how it would affect any body
it came in contact with
reminded me of the day
when the leadership of our church
stood on the platform and said
"don't drink our water"
the water looked clear
there was a hidden problem
deep within the well
I knew at the time there was something prophetic in the words
"don't drink our water"
and yet it was only years later
the hidden sin within the leadership was exposed
it is the hidden things
the things deep beneath the surface
unseen by most eyes
that can poison what we are offering
affecting any who drink our water
any who are splashed by our stuff
about whose water you drink
about where you swim
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Lectionary readings for Ash Wednesday: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17; Psalm 51:1-17;
2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10; Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.
“Yet even now, says the Lord, repent and return to me with all your heart” Joel 2:13
Today is Ash Wednesday—the beginning of the Church’s observance of the Lenten season. It is a space in time in which we are called to stop whatever we are doing, no matter how important it might be, and enter more intentionally into the disciplines of prayer, self-examination and repentance. But these disciplines—as significant as they are—are not ends in themselves. They are a means to an end and that end is that we would return to God with all our hearts.
Unfortunately, the practice of entering into the Lenten season has often been reduced to the question: “What are you giving up for Lent?” This is a fine question, but it can only take us so far. The real question of the Lenten season is: How will I find ways to return to God with all my heart? This begs an even deeper question: Where in my life have I gotten away from God and what are the disciplines that will enable me to find my way back?
How many and how subtle are the ways that we as Christian leaders can “leave” God and the true spiritual journey in favor of other pursuits—even those that seem very noble and necessary! The cares and concerns of life and even the dreams and visions that God has given us can distract us from the relationship itself. One day we wake up and realize we have tolerated that which is intolerable and compromised that which is of greatest value.
Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart. What a poignant and compelling invitation! Who among us does not want to return to God with all our heart?
The season begins as we receive the symbolic gesture of the imposition of ashes on our foreheads and acknowledge our human finiteness and mortality. No matter who we think we are, the traditions of Ash Wednesday remind us that “you are dust and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19) This is not meant to be morbid, it is just meant to limit our grandiosity and help us to stay in touch with the real human condition that we all share.
Ash Wednesday also initiates a season of acknowledging our sinfulness. In a very intentional way, we invite God to search us and know us and (eventually) to lead us into resurrection life. The ashes marking our foreheads carry the same meaning contained in the Old Testament practice of covering oneself with ashes: they are an outward sign of an inward repentance and mourning as we become aware of our sin. This, too, is good for us because we live in so much denial. Facing our sin in the shadow of Christ’s cross and impending resurrection is the healthiest way to deal with our sin.
The disciplines of fasting and other kinds of abstinence help us to face the hold that our sin patterns have on us and to somehow let go. They create space for the godly grief that leads to repentance. They ask us to consider how we might be called to give more of ourselves to others. Lent requires something of us, but there can be no feasting without fasting. Entering into the Lenten discipline of giving up something in order to create more space for prayer is the fast that prepares us to fully enjoy the Feast of the Resurrection.
Shaping Your Lenten Discipline
To begin, we might consider disciplines of abstinence that help us clear out the clutter of those things that distract us from God. Whether we fast from foods that comfort our emptiness, from caffeine or alcohol that keep us stimulated, from aspects of media or technology that keep us distracted, from words that keep us overly-enamored with our own thoughts, from mindless spending that keeps us numb, from addiction to the spotlight that keeps us dependent on other people’s praise…disciplines of fasting and other kinds of abstinence help us to clear the decks for spiritual action.
As we clear out the clutter in our souls, we become more finely attuned to what is really going on in our lives spiritually and the invitations that are there for us. As we experience a broken and contrite heart in the face of what we are seeing, the way is opened for God to teach us wisdom in our secret heart.
Ash Wednesday is also a day when we are invited to consider how we might shape our Lenten season in positive ways by entering into practices that help us respond to this deeper self-knowledge. The Gospel reading for today (Matthew 6) highlights concrete disciplines that have the potential to loosen the grip of sin and distraction in our lives, thus creating more space for God. As we shape our Lenten disciplines, we might ask:
- How will I give? (v. 2, 3) Lent is a time for “giving things up” balanced by “giving to” those in need.
- How will I pray? (v. 5-13) As we “give up” some of our usual distractions, it creates more space for prayer. Perhaps there is a prayer practice (such as fixed hour prayer) that God is inviting us to during Lent.
- Who do I need to forgive and from whom do I need to seek forgiveness? (v. 14, 15) Seeking forgiveness and offering forgiveness creates space for God’s grace to flow in our lives.
- How will I fast? What is distracting me from my relationship with God? What do I need to abstain from in order to create more space for God and attentiveness to God? (v. 16-18)
- What earthly treasures am I attached to and how can I let go? The way we use our time, financial resources and energy reflect powerfully on what we treasure. Is there any specific way in which God is inviting us to “let go” of our attachment to some earthly treasure—at least for this season? (v. 19-21)
From Winter to Spring
Lent is the season in which winter and spring struggle with each other for dominance—in the outer world and in our own souls. Rather than approaching Lent as drudgery or as a requirement, these questions help us approach Lent as an opportunity. One liturgy refers to Lent as “this joyful season” because it is meant to lead us into the Church’s springtime, a time when out of the darkness of sin’s winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges.[i] May it be so!
So let us begin together.
Ruth Haley Barton
Sunday, March 06, 2011
Know this: you should judge every person by his merits. Even someone who seems completely wicked, you must search for and find that little speck of good, for in that place he is not wicked. By this you will raise him up and help him return to God. And you must also do this for yourself, finding your own good points, one after the other, raising yourself up. This is how melodies are made, note after note.Rabbi Nachman of Breslov