Thursday, December 25, 2008
Christmas Day in my favorite spot. I'm so fortunate to have a place like this, only moments from my home. I had to walk through knee deep snow to get here today. Accept for a few ducks and a couple of ravens that hang out in this area, the silence was palpable. Makes it very easy to worship and feel the connection. Merry Christmas!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Monday, December 22, 2008
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, "It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
How are you finding room for Jesus?
On retreat I once wrote in my journal, “How good of you, God, to make truth a relationship instead of an idea. Now there is room between you and me for growth, for conversation, for exception, for the infinite understandings created by intimacy, for the possibility to give back and to give something to You—as if I could give anything back to You. You offer the possibility to undo, to please, to apologize, to change, to surrender. There’s room for stages and for suffering, for mutual passion and mutual pity. There’s room for mutual everything.”
from Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality p 67
Monday, December 15, 2008
"And as one wag said, "The trouble with waiting is that it takes so damn long!"
"Often, our own lives seem caught in the doldrums, with no sense of impetus and no safe harbour in sight. Who knows where Jesus will be born in our experience.
"The stable reassures us that, in our waiting, we can anticipate Jesus' presence to become manifest in our lives in the most unlikely of situations. Sometimes the waiting is about gradually having to let go of all expectations of where God will show up and be attentive to the oddest of places for the surprise of grace.
Jeff Imbach - www.soulstream.org
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Looking for something more? Check out the following:
Henry Nouwen: Daily and Weekly e-mail newsletters - Click Here
Richard Rohr: Daily and Weekly Newsletters, Audio Homilies - Click Here
His latest Homilie, December 7, 2008 "Not a reward but a Commitment" is absolutely wonderful!!! It's all about how God's love is a commitment to us, not a reward. A MUST LISTEN. Here's the link: Click Here
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
In Junior High my friends and I would play tennis during the summer. Somehow there ended up being four of us, so we would play doubles on a regular basis. My friend Tom and I would play Greg and Brent, and although we would come close, Tom and I would NEVER win! Brent and Greg started calling us “loooosers.” Tom and I decided to go with it and went out and got ourselves t-shirts with “Loser 1” and “Loser 2” printed on them. I’ve sometimes wondered if this had some kind of lasting effect on me and now I am psychologically scared forever!
Stuff happens doesn’t it? Negative stuff. Stuff that makes us feel like a loser sometimes. As a result we pick up baggage along the way. Some of us have baggage that we have no idea where it came from; we just know we have it. Then we do all kinds things to deal with the baggage which creates more baggage, and a deep pit to try and climb out of. Dreams fade, relationships fail, we fail, and it can all begin to make a person feel like…a loser.
Now that you are thoroughly depressed let me tell you some good news. God has a solution for our feelings of failure, loss, and inadequacy. God desperately loves us. Let me say it again, God desperately loves us, and win or lose, He takes great pleasure in us. He looks right past all of our losses, weaknesses, failures, and sins because of Jesus and loves us more than we can imagine. Think of the New Testament examples, the Father longing for his son to return, the shepherd leaving all his sheep to go find the one that is lost, the owner of a coin turning her house upside down to find the lost coin (Luke 15). All of these stories have a tinge of desperation to them and they represent how God longs to be with us and save those who are lost.
...here is your reason to find your joy in me; see my love and find your joy in me, for more than anything this pleases me most." Julian of Norwich
I don’t think I can say it strongly enough – GOD LONGS TO BE WITH US, but we run, and we hide (Isaiah 30:15-18) Apparently, running from God’s love has been going on since the beginning of time. Adam and Eve hid from God. The Israelites rebelled and ran to other gods. In the New Testament some of the early disciples chose the law over a loving relationship with God, and modern day Christians and non-Christians? We do all of the above and more. Unfortunately, running doesn’t help. Running only multiplies our feelings of loss and pain, and further entrenches defeating patterns into our lives.
Sometimes feeling like a loser affects our openness to God. We somehow don’t think we are worthy of God’s love, or attention if we are not winning, successful, or “victorious” to use a Christian word. But if winning and victory were the conditions, or pre-requisites to receive God’s love, none of us would qualify. Besides, God took care of all that on the cross. He is our victory. We’re all winners in God’s eyes because of what Jesus did for us.
Aren’t you grateful for what God has done: that he loved us first, and keeps on loving us no matter what? That he saved us and forgave us? That He delights in all that He has done for us and is pleased with us. I don’t know about you, but I would be so lost and without hope if it wasn’t for the love and saving grace of God. This is good news for many of us who can’t quite seem to “get it together,” and probably never will.
Meditating on this - His unconditional love, His saving grace, His kindness, His desire to be with me, and the mind blowing mystery that He is pleased with me in spite of all the stupid things I have done - makes me want to run TO Him, not away from Him. He is my victory and He is yours too.
"Take your joy in your Savior and your salvation" Julian of Norwich
Learning to Pray: Repent (turn to God), rest, be quiet, trust
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
When I was a kid I found out my dad was pretty good with a Yo-Yo. I discovered this when I brought one home one day. He could make it “sleep,” “walk the dog,” and even do that triangle move, whatever that’s called (like the dudes in this picture). I never knew he was so talented. Of course, the first thing I wanted him to do was show me how to do all those cool tricks. He could do something that I couldn’t do and I wanted to know how he did it. I could picture myself at recess becoming the coolest kid in the third grade because I could “walk the dog!”
In Luke 11.1 we find the disciples wanting to learn something from Jesus far more significant and life changing than Yo-Yo tricks. Luke 11.1 says:
“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, ...’"
We usually don’t ask just anybody to teach us stuff. For us to ask to be taught there usually has to be something special about the way they do things, or who they are. At this point, the disciples have been watching Jesus, spending time with him, and hearing him teach. They know he has a special relationship with the Father, so after he returns from a time of prayer they say, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Even though the disciples requested it, I can’t help but sense God’s invitation in all of this. I love that the disciples were drawn to prayer by Jesus’ example. His life and his close relationship with the Father provided the invitation. Jesus didn’t have to say, “When I get back we’re going to have a seminar called Prayer 101, so have some paper and pens ready.” When he got back from praying the disciples were waiting for the chance, the opportunity, to be taught to pray like Jesus prayed. “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Maybe the disciples were clamoring for power like they usually did, but I also can’t help but wonder who put the desire to pray in the disciple’s hearts in the first place. Out of his love and compassion the Father must have been wooing them, drawing them closer, and preparing them for the future (John 6:44). He knew that someday they would need to connect with the Father just like Jesus did. He knew they would need to pray just as badly as they needed air to breath. We need it just as badly too. Sadly, we aren’t as in touch with this need as the disciples were at this point in their lives. God longs for us to communicate with Him and he longs to communicate his love and mercy to us too. When the disciples saw that it was possible to communicate with the Father, or Abba as Jesus intimately called Him, they responded saying, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
If Jesus got away to pray, the disciples must have been thinking, “there really must be something to this prayer thing.” God had something wonderful waiting for them. He has something wonderful waiting for us too as we learn to pray. Maybe they were hoping to have the same kind of relationship with the Father that Jesus had, and they sensed that prayer was part of the equation. “Lord, teach us to pray.”
What must it have been like for the disciples to be around Jesus? The disciples see something extraordinary in the life of Jesus and they want to know what he knew, they wanted to know how he prayed. They wanted what Jesus had. Maybe they were thinking: Where does his extraordinary relationship with the Father come from? Where does his power and authority come from? Where does his compassion and grace come from? His love? His mental toughness? His entirely different paradigm than the highly religious, judgmental, system we live under? His purity? His incredible knowledge of God's will, and his willingness and courage to carry it all of the time? Could prayer be part of the answer? “Lord, teach us to pray.”
You and I know technique is not the answer, but maybe they were thinking it was the way he prayed. Maybe they were thinking it came from the times he slipped away in the middle of the night, or got up before all of them to go and pray. Maybe it was his 40 days in the desert fasting and praying. Maybe it was the time he spent praying and learning in the temple. Maybe it was the way he commanded demons to flee and they did. In reality, it was just that Jesus wanted, and needed, to be alone with the One he loved, and the One he loved wanted to be with him too. “Lord, teach us to pray.”
Of all the things the disciples could have asked Jesus to teach them they say, "Lord, teach us to pray."
When Jesus responds he doesn’t give them a lot of technique, or explanation, he just prays and shows them how to pray by example.
He said to them, "When you pray, say:
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.' "
Sunday, November 23, 2008
One person spoke of how their prayer time, mostly in the car, has primarily turned into a time of gratefulness. Amazingly enough, this prayer has come out of a particularly difficult few years.
Another person spoke of how it helps them to pray when they find themselves in difficult situations if they have been spending time reading scripture, or intentionally getting away to be with God. They described this time as creating a “reservoir” that they can tap into when they need it.
One person said they wanted to learn to “communicate with God as opposed to just talking to God.” I thought that was a wonderful desire and a beautiful way of describing what prayer is all about.
One other person said how good it can be to have people pray for you, especially experienced intercessors, and how they noticed the difference it made. This made me think of my 91 year old Grandpa who prays for our whole family on a regular basis.
Someone else spoke about reading Psalms until they connected with God. They thought it was interesting how David was called “a man after God’s own heart” and yet he was such a whiner. BUT, as this person pointed out, David and the other Psalmist’s would whine and complain until they could say, “God I know you are with me, and You are awesome.”
Another person spoke from recent personal experience about the difficulty of praying according to God’s will when their own desire began to seem like something different than what they thought God’s will was. The kicker was the thing this person desired was a VERY good thing and something we were all praying would happen. It wasn’t something like winning the lottery, but something very personal and potentially wonderful. This person described how they, with God's help, had come to a place of peace and acceptance with God’s will and how things eventually transpired. Wow.
“PRAYER ITSELF IS AN ART WHICH ONLY THE HOLY SPIRIT CAN TEACH US. PRAY FOR PRAYER. PRAY UNTIL YOU CAN REALLY PRAY!” C.H. Spurgeon
A real desire to wait on God and discover His heart and will was expressed a number of times. The question was raised, “how do we do that?” It made me think of Dallas Willard in his book “The Spirit of the Disciplines" and to summarize with one word it simply takes “practice.” One time Ryan Walter, a former professional hockey player, told me he worked it out one time and figured he had spent tens of thousands of hours on the ice, so that what looked so natural in a game had actually come from hours and hours of practice. Seems kind of unspiritual, but learning to pray simply takes practice. Practice in waiting, listening, being open, aware, and responding to God’s love and presence.
All of these observations came from deep, sometimes heartbreaking situations. It made me appreciate their observations all the more. It’s one of the things I love about my little church. Everyone is so real. If life sucks, or they connect with God by climbing trees, or praying doesn’t seem to be working for them, they say so.
One thing that was ringing in my ears this morning was the disciple’s request of Jesus to “teach us to pray.” We can read books, and even learn from others, and it’s all good, but how many of us just sit down with God for a few minutes a day and simply ask Him to teach us to pray like the disciples did? I believe it is something He will do. It is something He wants to do. It’s a wonderful, sometimes painful, journey to go on with God.
I’ve been asking God to teach me to pray most of my adult life. Most of that time has been marked by absolute, abject failure in so many ways. I sometimes feel like Paul and want to tell people that I am the worst sinner in Christendom. However, this time has also had a little bit of wonderful eternal bliss and God's grace mixed in too. All I can say is, He is teaching me to pray and I hope he never stops because after all this time I still desperately need Him, and still feel like a beginner.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
“Contemplation is not the pleasant reaction to a celestial sunset, nor is it the perpetual twitter of heavenly birdsong. It is not even an emotion. It is the awareness of God, known and loved at the core of one’s being.”
Clifton Wolters, Introduction to The Cloud of Unknowing, Penguin, p. 36
Friday, November 7, 2008
Say “Yes” to Jesus
Mother Theresa of Calcutta
The process of conversion begins with genuine openness to change…Grace is the presence and action of Christ in our lives inviting us to let go of where we are now and to be open to the new values that are born every time we penetrate to a new understanding of the Gospel.
Moreover , Jesus calls us to repent not just once; it is an invitation that keeps recurring. In the liturgy it recurs several times a year, especially during Advent and Lent . It may also occur at other times through circumstances: disappointments, personal tragedy, or the bursting into consciousness of some compulsion or secret motive that we were not aware of.
A crisis in our lives is not a reason to run away; it is the voice of Christ inviting us to accept more of the divine light. More of the divine light means more of what the divine light reveals, which is divine life. And the more divine life we receive, the more we perceive that divine life is pure love.
Thomas Keating, “Awakenings” pg 4-5, The Crossroads Publishing Company
Saturday, October 18, 2008
When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks, the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness .
I would almost say they save me, daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, "It’s simple,” they say,
“and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.”
From Thirst, poems by Mary Oliver
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Saturday, August 9, 2008
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Have you ever noticed that one of the first things we often say to our house guests is "Please make yourself at home?" On the flip side of that expression, isn't wonderful when you go to someone's house and they really make you feel comfortable and welcome? In this case you leave thinking, "they really made me feel at home."
As my good friend Jesse spoke on love last Sunday he read John 14 from the version of the Bible called The Message and this phrase stood out to me as he read it, "Make yourself at home in my love." (Several of my blogs have come from Jesse's messages - he always gets me thinking...) God wants me to feel at home in his love. As I have thought about being at home in God’s love, the importance of this phrase has had a deepening impact on me as I am realizing that God has been deepening this feeling of being at home in his love for a lot of years now.
Feeling at home in God’s love is absolutely foundational to a free, trusting, loving relationship with God. It's one of those phrases that sounds so simple, but in reality may take a lifetime to truly grasp and experience. Like staying in a stranger's home and trying to feel comfortable, for me at least, I haven’t always felt at home in God’s love. There are things to consider when it comes to prayer that can help me feel more at home in God's love.
God is love and he is continually drawing me to Him and moving in my life because he loves me and wants to have a relationship with me. Prayer is all about being open and accepting God’s invitation to be at home in his love.
One of my friends claims that the only thing he has ever heard God say to him is that God loves him. The longer I live and the more I listen to God, I have to agree with him. Even when God disciplines me I can sense his love in it. He is always there waiting with open arms. I hear about God's love quite often, or I know about God's love intellectually, but like a child with his Mother and Father, God's incredible love is something I can't get enough of. When the message of God’s love manages to reach down into my heart, and not just my head, it is always life-giving. Fortunately for me, love is one of God's favorite subjects to talk to about.
Aren't we bombarded by messages and thoughts that say the opposite of God wanting us to be at home in his love? I sure am. Lately, when I am bombarded with negative thoughts, or feeling stressed out, I try to pray by imagining myself resting in God's loving arms. To rest in God’s arms and believe that he accepts me, and wants me to rest in his arms, I need to believe that he loves me. That he is there to hold me and to lovingly look into my eyes with a look that says, "I love you just the way you are." By the way: for me this thought or imaginative prayer has been a God initiated process. I won’t go into to it now, but by being open to God he has led me into his arms, and looking into his eyes that are full of a loving, confident, sometimes mischievous like gaze.
Through prayer I am learning that one of the ways God makes me feel at home is that God often expresses his love to me according to the way he has made me. For example, I am wired to love the outdoors and I can’t help but see his beauty and feel his presence in nature. Sometimes, I even sense God's presence and love in the weeds at the side of the road! Others aren't wired that way and may think I'm nuts because they are wired to sense God's love in their children, or working with the poor, or executing a successful business deal. The point is: when I start to become more aware of God's love, or actually take God up on his offer to "be at home" in his love, I am going to become more and more aware of his love in the simple, ordinary things in my life. By growing in my awareness of God’s loving presence, life becomes prayer and some days I am actually overwhelmed by all of God's expressions of love toward me.
Learning to pray teaches me to live in the present moment; the only place God's love can be experienced. If I am continually regretting the past, or worrying about the future, I will not be able to experience God's love in the way he invites me to. Learning to pray teaches me to let go of the past and trust God with the future and enjoy what is right in front of me. In Matthew 6 Jesus said not to worry and to take a look at the birds and the flowers to see an example of what it means to trust in God. Jesus' message is that God loves us and will take care of us, and not to worry. Be at home in his love - right now - and we will see his kingdom come!
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Whoa! What a long cold winter here in Vancouver, BC., but it was finally warm enough to pray outside on the deck today (see picture taken with my camera phone - that's the view from my deck). The last day that it was warm enough to do this was probably way back at the beginning of October, so it’s been 5 or 6 months since I have been able to sit in one of my favorite places to be with God.
Whatever helps me grow in my awareness of God is good and important for me to do and I realize we are all wired differently so we become aware of God in different ways. For a long time I didn’t feel comfortable with the thought, let alone actually doing it, that is connecting with God through nature. In my mind it had to be in church, or through scripture and that was it. Everything else was taboo.
I think connecting with God through nature began for me on a moonlit night cross country skiing just north of Squamish, BC. It was so quiet, and the stars were so bright and the mountains covered in snow illuminated by a full moon absolutely took my breath away. I remember thinking “there just has to be a God and he is absolutely brilliant and amazing for creating this scene that was beyond words."
Now, more and more, I sense God in the stillness of a tree, or the majesty of a mountain. It’s that sense of God that I think inspires some poets, painters, and musicians to try to communicate to us the love and glory of God through their art. It’s the indescribable Mystery that can only really be experienced in our hearts and through faith. We might see it and feel it as the sun cascades through the trees on a snowy day in the woods, and the glory of God, and what we are seeing, nearly knocks us over with its magnificent brilliance.
...I got to pray outside on the deck today.
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
"To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept.
"Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that, those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking their words more seriously and discovering their own true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends, to get to know their inner selves more fully, and even to dare to be silent with you."
Friday, January 18, 2008
24-7 Prayer USA - January 15, 2008
"David Jolly, a student at Missouri Western State University, writes an incredible account of their five days of 24-7 prayer in November. Through faithful prayers gone up for a student named Gerrick who had been diagnosed with cancer, God responded powerfully. David shares with us, "Gerrick Ingram is 100% cancer free, without any surgery or radiation!"
"My name is David Jolly, and I am student at Missouri Western State University. Recently, I read the book Red Moon Rising, and I must say that it blew me away. Reading that book sparked the idea to have 24-7 prayer on our own campus. Our 24-hour prayer started November 5th and lasted for five days, and we prayed at the clock tower right in the middle of campus.
"The first night couldn't have gone better. It was a cool sixty degrees and the wind echoed with the songs of angels. God presence was definitely with us that night. At first, we were worried that the whole project would fall through because all the hours had not been filled up. But, after a visit to the boiler room in Kansas City, we realized that anything is possible with God - we were going to go through with it no matter what. Throughout the week, the hours that were not filled began to fill up like magic. People started to catch on to what God was doing. About halfway through the week, we had a nighttime worship session. It was freezing cold and we were all tired, but the minute that we started to sing, God's love met us and warmed us right up. It dawned on me at that moment that God was actually moving on this campus! We became a family that night.
"The rest of the week was fantastic, and it was funny to watch students pass by the clock tower and see someone praying. After a while, they figured out what was happening, and instead of being hostile, it seemed as though they wanted us to pray for them. We ended our week of prayer with another worship session that lasted until two in the morning. Isn't it great when you get lost in worship? I know that our lives will be changed dramatically from these encounters with God, and His power and mercy definitely rocked us.
"We were deeply impacted one story in particular. A student named Gerrick Ingram was diagnosed with cancer a few months ago. Gerrick is a man on fire for the Lord. Throughout the week of prayer, we spent hours praying for him, and he spent much more time praying for himself. Gerrick knows that God has a plan for his life, and he was determined not to leave this world yet. Just a week after our five days of 24-7 prayer, Gerrick told us all that 95% of his cancer was gone. But, it gets better! A week after that, he went back to the doctor for testing, and to everyone's surprise, there was no sign of cancer in his body. Gerrick Ingram is 100% cancer free, without any surgery or radiation! He was healed by the power of God! He is a walking testimony and living proof that Jesus does exist.
"24-7 prayer is powerful. Look how much God changed the lives of people in just five days on the small campus of Missouri Western. Imagine the possibilities if we all agreed in prayer as brothers and sisters in Christ, every day. Imagine it - and let's make it real! God bless you all."