Showing posts from 2013

Joy- The Fruit of Being Loved

In the depths of who I am I rejoice in God my savior. Luke 1: 47 CEB

Perhaps humor is an easier way to transcendence- since joy can be hard, especially if we're hurting.

I remember a wise friend once said that laughter is God's respite from grief. If you're in a season of grief, you may well find this to be true. In laughter, our body releases endorphins that can ease the pain and make our loss a little more bearable, at least for a time.  
While joy is not the same as happiness, it can't be bad to be happy and joyful. Chesterton once wrote that gratitude is the real measure of happiness. Whenever I see my life as entitlement, my happiness and joy are diminished.  
Losing joy is something we do to ourselves. We begin seeing our lives less and less as a gift and a mercy. We squawk when there's no hot water. We begin to expect privileges and tell ourselves we're deserving. We end up praying the prayer of the Pharisee. (see Luke 18) We say  "there but the g…

Hope- God's True Miracle

The angel said, “Don’t be afraid! Look! I bring good news to you—wonderful, joyous news for all people. Your savior is born today in David’s city. He is Christ the Lord. This is a sign for you: you will find a newborn baby wrapped snugly and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great assembly of the heavenly forces was with the angel praising God. They said, “Glory to God in heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors.” Luke 2: 10-14 CEB

In exploring hope we can't escape one of gifts God has to give us!  The paper discussing transcendence defines hope as "expecting the best and working to achieve it."

But hope is a core Christian virtue as well. And hope is much more than celebrating Christmas a certain way. It's about what God wants, not just what we want.

So what happens when hope is lost? The Bible includes many instances of human hopes being shattered, or unmet. How about the majority of the people expecting a political deliverer and king, especially discip…


Then Mary said, “I am the Lord’s servant. Let it be with me just as you have said.” Then the angel left her. Luke 1:38

-We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
-Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
-Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. Steps 1-3,  Alcoholics Anonymous

Is it easier to surrender to wonder if you trust a higher power such as God? Oprah thinks so. We fear loss of control. In fact, part of what pushes some anxiety disorders, such as Agoraphobia is loss of control. It's not necessarily rational, since there are many situations where we are not in control. Drained of energy and reserves, we attempt the impossible- to manage the unmanageable- life itself.  
The attempt to manipulate others can do serious harm- to others and ourselves. It poisons relationships, and it's why some Christians will never venture back to church. …


 Our capacity for appreciation is a function of the "human" brain over the reptilian, at least for the times we choose to exercise our God- given capacity for wonder and appreciation. It's worthy of its description as one of the "transcendent" emotions, because it allows us to be human, to love, to calm down, and better endure difficult times.    

One way to counteract the natural tendency of adaptation to good things (the animal brain) is to make a regular list of all the things which we take for granted.

There are two ways to experience appreciation: one, we practice it daily or, two, we undergo the loss of blessings- and we recognize them after the fact.  Adapting to the good can be countered by intentionally remembering the good in our lives. Psalm 73:25, is instructive here: "Do I have anyone else in heaven?" Or, whom do I have to thank?

Another way to embody appreciation is to relinquish what we cling to as our rights. Instead, see them as f…

Silence- Spiritual Detox

Ecclesiastes counsels that there's a time and place for everything... a time for "keeping silent and a time for speaking." Ecc. 3:7 CEB. One of the ways wonder is expressed is silence, because what are the words that can really describe wonder? We're led to silence, not more words. Silence is God's oft forgotten language.
True worship of God can happen without any words at all. Worship and prayer in the pagan world was known for pouring out the "empty words" Jesus mentions in Matt. 6:7. The mark of idolatry, then and now, is noise and wordiness, in contrast to our silence before God: Doom to the one saying to the tree, “Wake up!”
or “Get up” to the silent stone.
Does it teach?
Look, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
but there is no breath within it. But the Lord is in his holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before him.  -Habakkuk 2: 18-20 CEB. 
If we keep quiet and listen, we might be able to hear what God is speaking to us, what our life…

Wonder- See God Anew

A sense of wonder lifts us out of the anxiety and stress of the holiday season. Wonder is healing and life-sustaining. Other such "transcendent" emotions, such as humor, appreciation, gratitude, and hope can also nurture our spiritual connection with God and others, but wonder seems uniquely organic to the Christmas story. 

Wonder by definition is awe, astonishment, marvel, admiration, reverence. It often comes as the fruit or byproduct of seeing God's life and love revealed to us in a new way. Wonder usually comes with surprise, because it undoes even our best schemes for self-producing happiness.   

Wonder invites us to relinquish our tight gripped illusions of control. It's a sharp counter- balance to our fixation on having, buying, and making for ourselves the perfect Christmas. It's also a correction for all the voices around us and in us, promising us happiness if we only buy or do more. How often do I choose to listen to those false consolations?  


Author Advocates Slow Medicine for Fragile Adults


Measuring Spiritual Strength

Find out how often you become disturbed in the course of a single day.   Anthony De Mello, One Minute Wisdom 

David and Goliath Challenges Conventional Wisdom

In Malcolm Gladwell's newest volume, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants, (2013), we learn to take a second look at weaknesses and bad fortune, because hidden in them may come remarkable resiliency and strength. Go beyond the conventional reading of history to see the surprise ending of a David, who used nimbleness, superior sight and "artillery" skills to overcome the half blind and weighted down infantry man,  Goliath. 
If anything, the book is a fascinating read of how troubled childhoods do not dictate failure, but rather, can give the wisdom to persist in difficult situations throughout life. The misfit often finds their place because of a number of obstacles along the way. 
Out of dire circumstances can arise amazingly gifted people, chiefly because they are used to adversity and see it for what it is. Thus, terrible circumstances growing up forged in a pioneer of better childhood Leukemia treatment a willingness to test his youn…

Hear Jesus' Words at the Table (2)

We are not worthy that you should receive us, but give your word and we shall be healed, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen  Service of Word and Table V,
UMBOW, 2012, p. 51
These words from the Confession and Pardon above are right out of Luke 7:7. They are words from the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant, and believed Jesus could do it long distance. This would have probably put Jesus far above any faith healer in that time as most healers needed to touch the sick person.

The words of Jesus from the passage are contained in Luke 7:9-10: When Jesus heard these words, he was impressed with the centurion. He turned to the crowd following him and said, "I tell you, even in Israel I haven’t found faith like this."  When the centurion’s friends returned to his house, they found the servant restored to health.

Like the Canaanite Woman of Matthew 15, the Gentile official is an outsider to the blessings of Israel. And the Romans, who ended up destroying Jerusalem in 70 A.…

Hear Jesus' Words at the Table (1)

From there, Jesus went to the regions of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from those territories came out and shouted, “Show me mercy, Son of David. My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession.” But he didn’t respond to her at all. His disciples came and urged him, “Send her away; she keeps shouting out after us.” Jesus replied, “I’ve been sent only to the lost sheep, the people of Israel.” But she knelt before him and said, “Lord, help me.” He replied, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and toss it to dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall off their masters’ table.” Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith. It will be just as you wish.” And right then her daughter was healed. Matt.15: 22-28 (CEB) 

We are not worthy so much as to gather the crumbs under thy table... Prayer of Humble Access. United Methodist Book of Worship p. 49

The story of Jesus' encounter with the Canaanite woman is referenced in The Service of Word…

Why God Isn't a Capitalist

God's resources of love and grace don't run out, even though most of us function in a world system called capitalism, of supply and demand over limited, precious resources. God's economy of grace works differently.  Our economic system is based on scarce resources driving up the cost of those who can pay for them. 
About this time of year, thousands of churches hold financial stewardship campaigns often using the parable of the talents from Matthew 25: 14-30:  

"The kingdom of heaven is like a man who was leaving on a trip. He called his servants and handed his possessions over to them. To one he gave five valuable coins, and to another he gave two, and to another he gave one. He gave to each servant according to that servant’s ability. Then he left on his journey. After the man left, the servant who had five valuable coins took them and went to work doing business with them. He gained five more. In the same way, the one who had two valuable coins gained two more. …

Mask- Dropping and Our Spiritual Self

Jesus seemed to know what motivates human beings. His insights are all over the four Gospels: "Be careful that you don’t practice your religion in front of people to draw their attention...don’t blow your trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may get praise from people. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get...Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you." from Matt. 6:1-5 (CEB) 

The Father's reward is more life, love, light. Clergy of all kinds are at risk of gaining the recognition, praise, adulation, "to be seen" in our nice garb, by many thousands, on cable, on the networks, at the cost of what we need most: seeking and receiving God's presence in the secret place.

Part of what draws me to Matthew is the sense of caution and warning it contains from Jesus for those who want to be right, mainline, conformist, and those who want to be considered properly religious. These are things t…

Had Enough "Rewards?"

Maybe rewarding customers can yield some return business, because most companies have an incentive program. It doesn't matter that you just spent all you wanted to spend. They want your bucks next time.

The more bothersome type of "rewards" plans are the kind that send you countless emails and texts for you to sort out. To them, your email, not serving you, is gold.
Have you noticed that everyone providing a service wants you to tell them how great their service was? Go to our website, we're told, from there you can access a freebee if you complete another survey. Churches too, can fall into this trap. It's important to know how people regard you, it's just changing a negative or even lukewarm first impression that's so difficult.  
Rewards in and of themselves do not necessarily build any kind of brand loyalty, nor can they motivate any recipient to evangelize other potential customers about your product or service. The guru of brand loyalty says that…

Had Enough of Bucket Lists?

Pay attention, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such-and-such a town. We will stay there a year, buying and selling, and making a profit.” You don’t really know about tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for only a short while before it vanishes. Here’s what you ought to say: “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” But now you boast and brag, and all such boasting is evil. James 4:13-16 (CEB)
Your bucket list is probably better than mine. I don't have one. I don't think I ever had one. It's not that I object to beholding the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, for example. It's just that I don't have "those places" as need to do-s. 
For a long time, I felt it was my job as a parent to make good and lasting memories with my children, and some of this involves going to see the wonders of the world. Making memories is a great thing to do with your kids, however old they are.  

But now I have an aversion to self- d…


"The denial or minimizing of our depression is sustained... by the grandiose myths parishioners tend to whisper in our ear, such as, "You are so strong and confident"; "You work so hard and do so much"; "You possess such remarkable faith." 

We either buy into these myths and thus disavow our depression, or else we are reluctant to ruin the image others have of us. 

Consequently we experience fatigue, irritation, and the erosion of our spirit, but rationalize that we are too strong, too smart, or too successful to be afflicted with real depression."  
Robert Randall


"Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work, driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for, in order to get to the job that you need so you can pay for the clothes, car, and house that you leave empty all day in order to afford to live in it."  Ellen Goodman, as quoted in Beginnings; The Spiritual Life


And Jesus said to everyone, "All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23 CEB

Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes...the Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved." Acts 2:46,47 CEB

I've always been intrigued with the great addition provided by Luke when he adds "daily" to Jesus' call to take up the cross and follow him. It's the one and only difference with Mark or Matthew in this section they all share. 
It suggests that discipleship can only be daily if it's anything. It's regularly "saying no," (CEB); no to the ever constant ego demands for comfort, convenience and certainty.
Cross-taking can still put our lives very much at risk in the wrong part of the world. But while it can still mean martyrdom, doing it daily means something a little different. It now becomes more about my saying no to the incessant demands o…

And Own that Love is Heaven

This isn't a typo in the UM Hymnal. In the 6th verse of O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing, the word is "own" and not "owe." When we receive God's love that is there for the taking, Charles Wesley suggests that "we then shall know, shall feel our sins forgiven." God's love is an anticipation of what is to come.
Owning God's love for myself is life-long, not just once and for all. We are created to love and be loved. It will always be deep source of wonder and joy that God's love for us is at the beginning and the end- and beyond the end.
We will know as we are known, love as we are loved. But not yet. St. Theresa of Avila confessed to God that although she did not love God, she wanted to love God. I cannot love as God loves. The only hope of growing in love to others is in owning God's love. We love because God first loved us. I John 4:19 
The hymn O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing doesn't make sense until we understand that i…


The problem solver or the "fixer" lives in every one of us. We may be attracted to movies that tell of how things get fixed, like The Godfather or a series like Ray Donovan. Both examples mirror the myth of redemptive violence, where murder and mayhem are a stepping stone to something else- in these cases, career advancement.

Even if we say we reject the myth of redemptive violence, we do like problems solved, don't we?  
Tex Sample, the one-time seminary professor, described whole faith communities of what he termed the cultural middle, where the main function was to offer an "explanatory theology." It explains why everything is the way it is. Upper managers provide the same function for their corporate bosses and shareholders. In their own way, soothsaying managers learn how to explain away anything potentially perceived as a problem.  

If you look on social networks of all kinds, you'll find people who don't really know each other offering all kind…

Internet Use Disorder

This week's post at Sacred Space is a sharp reminder that good things can be misused- and can be a hindrance to the spiritual life. The Irish Jesuits are timely in naming the loss of sacred space as one casualty of internet dependency. The many tools of the internet have the capacity to invade our mental and spiritual focus.

We can be described as an ADD culture, which has safety consequences all its own. Beyond the safety concerns, like texting while driving or walking through traffic, the lines between private down time and public work time are almost gone. Employees are beginning to ask employers for the time they spend away from the office working on various projects. An off-the- wall tweet or post can get you thousands of followers, fired, or both.
Like other addictions, the sickness of IUD is a dependency. I don't know about the physical dimensions of the disorder. Like anything we use to mask our pain, a nice convenience like the internet can easily become a life drai…

Catch the Lift of a Full Sail

"Perhaps one day it will be a pleasure to remember even these things." The Aeneid, as quoted in Souls in Full Sail. 
With wit, wisdom, and imagination, author Emilie Griffin has penned a Christian spirituality for the later years in Souls in Full Sail. Published in 2011, the volume is a great example of two of the oft mentioned gifts of years, living reflectively, and creatively telling your story.  The book is a spiritual memoir, one that introduces readers to author's family and mentors, as well as the important seasons and places of her life. The overarching theme seems so basic to Christian spirituality: how can I grow closer to God?   

Early in the book, Griffin writes on her own mother's life, and how caring for her mother in the years before death changed her. It's often and only in caring for others in their winter seasons that we recognize our own aging. Perhaps for the first time we see our lives limited by a myriad of relationships, responsibilities…

The Age of Shooting from the Hip