Forty Days

Forty Days

Lent is 40 days long. I say it again... loooooong. If you have chosen to abstain from something for Lent this year, or have done so in the past, you probably understand why I say this.

I can maintain anything for a couple weeks. It is a challenge to continue being intentional about this observance of Lent for 40 days plus the Sabbath days. March 5-April 20.

I have been pondering how long 40 days feels. I am pondering how 40 days played out in the Scriptures

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Ego is a crappy listener...

Ego is a crappy listener...

Last week I read a blog snippet of a man who walked the Camino del Santiago in Spain as a pilgrimage. It is something I hope to do someday and I'm always intrigued by reading how others become more attuned to themselves and God along the way.  

In this post [click HERE for original] , David Fulton talks about how he got blisters - even though he prepared for the journey, had a steady pace, invested in good socks, broke in his boots and everything. Then it hit him. He had come on the journey to slow down and even with all his meticulous preparations, he still got gnarly, painful blisters and was pushing through them to accomplish the journey. The question became, would he heed his body's signal for rest?

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Everyday Parables - the struggle to be present

Everyday Parables - the struggle to be present

Sunday's softball game was frustrating to me. It was not because of the hot 90 plus degree weather – our catcher was getting sunspots in her eyes and dizzy from getting up and down and standing in the glaring sun. It wasn't because I got a nice abrasion on my leg by trying to get back to third base and not making it in time. It wasn't because of my bobbled ball in fielding a hard grounder to second.

My frustration came because it seemed no one could live in the present.

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Everyday Parables .... tenacity

Everyday Parables .... tenacity

I love to walk in the summer. Unfortunately, if I get out real early, my face and hands intercept the spun webbings of fastidious little creatures. I usually vocalize a bit of an “argh” in frustration while I swipe at the sticky threads on my flesh. I dream of inventing a device to attach to my dog's back so that as he careens down the trail in front of me, he can wipe out the webs at my face level.

What surprises me is that often, on our way back, we intercept a fresh web in the same place. And this time, instead of being frustrated, I am astonished...amazed...and in awe at these little multi-legged creatures who so quickly and tenaciously rebuild their web.

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Everyday Parables...Am I missing out???

A watched pot never boils.

A strained achilles, even when “watched” and attended too, takes an awfully long time to heal.

I am growing impatient and want to be done with the everyday parables of my achilles. Yet, here I am again,  frustrated that I will still miss out on two more weeks of softball to give space for my strained achilles to regain it's strength and mobility. I'd like to say that I'm learning patience, but...

This ongoing rehab and healing process continues to unearth things in me – things about both God and me. I'd much rather prefer to look at the flowers in the field and the birds in the air to learn more about my God and to soothe my worried soul. But it seems my summer assignment thus far (even in the context of the “do not worries” of Matthew 6 is to look at my achilles – without worry – and without fear of missing out. Yea, I know, “look at your achilles” is not in the Bible. And yet I continue to lean in - letting this pain lead me to better understand my God, my soul and the needs of my body.

What about God?

I love my chiropractor. She is fascinated and in awe of the human body and how everything connects and works together for optimal health – from what we eat to how we move and how we prepare to move and how we take care of ourselves after we move. As I lay on the table being ultra sounded or massaged or “adjusted” she teaches me...she, with a lilt of awe and with everyday language shares how the body works, what the body needs. And she prescribes and demonstrates treatments (exercises, supplements, stretches with frequency etc) to help me get better. Her awe fans the flame of my own. By stretching my gluts, I help my soleus, which helps my achilles. By doing heel drops I help the “sticky like” stuff that comes in to help hold/heal the little tears in my achilles to align more rightly instead of laying in a mess like globby pick-up-sticks. Vitamin C will help speed the results as well. I always leave the chiropractor feeling like I was listened to, attended to, and given both care and information to help me heal better. I am in awe and more aware of how amazing my body works each time I leave her office.

The last few times I've been injured (whiplash and sprained ankle) I knew I need to go to a doctor. But I chose to go to my chiropractic doctor because I know my primary care physician would take a short look, maybe touch my achilles to determine the level of pain and then tell me to R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compress, elevate). In other words she would tell me, as a life-time lay athlete, what I already know! She would then, perhaps, refer me out to a Physical Therapist or Sports Medicine specialist. Another doctor, another co-pay, another scheduling appointment to squeeze in.

I keep choosing to go to my chiropractor, though, because she doesn't merely tell me what I already know … she attends to my injury and teaches me how to care for myself to bring healing. For a whole hour I experience a hands on massage, electric stimulation, ultra sound, being adjusted or having her teach me new stretching or kinesio taping techniques. Actually, when I think about it – she is how I want God to be... experientially instructive, hands on concern and assistance with the parts of my body that are keeping me from living out fully and freely. Instead of just pontificating knowledge, writing a prescription and referring me out (all in 12 minutes or less), she pulls up her sleeves and companions me in my healing process.

I wonder if we see God like the general doctor (especially the ones constrained my today's health care industry and insurance standards). Why go to God when He only tells us what we already know (I should stop overeating, swearing, gossiping, and/or pray, care for the downtrodden, read my Bible more)? Why go to hear a “standard” prescription as a remedy (but not necessarily a cure), knowing that it might help for a while, but will probably not get to the core of the issue? If my doctor only has 12 minutes to spend with me, and then only to refer me out to other tests and procedures or specialists, I will, in the case of a more familiar injury like a sprained ankle or achilles, just google the answers myself and save a bunch of money.

Yea, if God were like that, I wouldn't want to go to Him either.

What am I learning about me?

I don't like resting. I am impatient. I want healing without so much hard work. I don't like being told what to do, but I like being shown what to do. I am determined to get better because sitting on the sidelines sucks. Health is not a place I want to skimp...a place I must continue to lean in and learn my body, my needs, what helps me stay focused, energized and hopefully, without ongoing injuries. My own impatience has slowed my healing process by trying to get back out there too early. I don't like waiting. Interesting, because I believe that I live a much more unhurried existence than most people I know. I have margin in my life. I have room for self-care. But this injury has unhurried me even more...(seriously Lord, even more slowly? I have to say “no” to even more things?) I cannot walk as fast, and it takes time to prepare for a walk, walk, stretch during the walk while I'm warmed-up, walk back home, do heel dips after my walk and ice, compress and elevate. It's summer time and though I can sit and look at the birds and flowers...I want to be frolicking. I'm missing out on hikes and tennis and even joining walking around this city I love.

It's  s o   d a  r n   s    l   o   w  ...

...but the journey (just ask the tortoise) is not about speed. I am not going to miss out.

“...don't you think God will attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving... Steep your life in God-reality, god initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your every day human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what god is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow (if you'll be well enough to play in the next game). God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” Matt 6: 31-34 The Message

Lord, grant me the grace to hear, see, feel the ways you are attending to my soul, in the same way the chiropractor attends to my body. Grant me the grace to continue to receive this injury as a gift, not as a curse. May I experience the reality that I am not missing out...help me to deal with the frustrations when they come. And thank you for making such amazingly complex and integrated bodies!

 

Everyday Parables: A simple blessing on the bases

My ongoing achilles saga.

Though I wish my achilles were all healed and I could frolic freely on tennis courts, in the woods and at the diamond, no such luck. I still am hobbling about being passed by people who have had multiple hip replacements! This has continued to be a frustrating time for me...one that I'm trying to receive as a gift, but one for which I struggle to be grateful. And yet in the midst...

During the game a few weeks ago, after I had re-torn my achilles sprinting to first base, I wasn't sure I could continue to play my normal position, second base. I had a need. Naturally, the true need I had was to sit out so as to quit re-injuring my achilles. But in the moment, already being one player short and perhaps being too prideful to take myself out of the game, I asked my sister-in-law, Callie, if I could switch with her – I'd play first base and she could play second. First has a lot of catching/stretching, but not a lot of movement otherwise. She said, “sure” and bravely stepped into a position that she'd never played before.

In between plays she was asking a ton of questions to me, our pitcher and the shortstop:

     “So do I need to tag someone on this base, or just touch the base?”

     “Do I run out to be a relay for the outfield?”

     “When do I cover 2nd and when does the shortstop cover second?”

     “How far off the bag should I stand?” Etc. Etc.

I didn't think much of it at the time, but later was so impressed by her willingness to care for me in this way. She stepped into an unknown place where she could potentially look/feel incompetent. She stepped in with total willingness to learn on the go. She was unafraid to ask questions and acted and reacted accordingly. She found herself flat on her bottom when a large man charged second plate and she was tossed the ball for the out. She kept a joyful attitude in the midst of the new.

I know she wouldn't think it was much, but in retrospect, it was so huge to me. I could have continued to suffer more by playing at second, but somehow my ability to express my need, and to have my sweet sis-in-law switch with me made me feel loved and taken care of. Indeed, she was a gift in the midst of my struggling with this injury. I am learning more and more that I not an island. This darned injury gifts me with the ability to learn how to receive...and isn't that the gist of kingdom living?

For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith -

and this is not from yourselves,

it is a gift of God - not as a result of works,

so that no one can boast. ~Eph 2:8-9

Leonard Sweet once wrote, “My greatest disability is my inability to receive.” And, yes. I am experiencing that almost daily during this injury. From a neighbor who helped take my “poopy” cat litter to the dumpster, to my sister-in-law who stepped into a new position so that I could have one where I could take a little bit better care of myself, to my friend's 15 year old who voluntarily pulled away from his video game to endure an un-gambol like pace to help me carry my guitar and cooler to my car.

Lord, grant me the grace to receive...to let my heart be humbled by my need and the kindnesses of others. Bless those who, without much thought and yet with deep kindness, have cared for me in little ways. Continue to open my heart to trust your love and care and to be grateful.

 

Everyday parables...My Achilles

It dawned on me this morning, as I awoke again with great frustration in regard to the stiffness and pain in both heels, that often my external world is a parable for the internal.

I was so excited in May to discover that my brother and sis-in-law were playing on a co-ed softball team this summer. For the past few years I've wanted to play but have been unable to find a team. It has been so much fun to be active and have camaraderie on and off the field and connect weekly with my bro and sis! Until the weekend warrior took her first sprint from home to first base. I felt them pull – the achilles tendons. Ugh, I thought. I need to stretch more next time.

Next time I did stretch. Though still tender, I played. And on the first play, when I had to chase down a ball in the outfield, I pulled a calf muscle and strained my achilles again. This time it affected my entire week – I had to drive Bailey (my dog) down to the local middle school for exercise. Usually we walk, but I was too sore to do so. And I love walking...it is an essential part of my life rhythm.

Once again, this week, I strained my achilles on the jaunt to first base. In the morning I thought, “Gosh, this is the first day I've walked normally all week. I feel good.” Bailey and I even walked down to the school and I was at a “normal” pace again with little soreness. And yet, I was secretly hoping the game would be rained out so that I would have another week to rest. No such luck...the weather didn't say no for me...I needed to say no for me. And I didn't. And now...I'm back to hobbling and R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) and a deep frustration with myself.

This may be obvious to others (ahem) but why do I keep playing when I keep injuring myself? Why would I risk rupturing my Achilles, (several of you have so ever gently suggested this possibility which I have ever so gently disregarded) which would take me out with more pain for even longer? Why am I so damned driven to keep playing when so much (it seems in my imagination, it's only a recreational league for crying out loud) is on the line? Is it no pain, no gain?

My first response: “Because we were short players and they needed me.” My second response is, “And I'm pretty good at it and don't want to miss out on the fun of playing.” In that I hear my indispensability and grandiose self-importance. In that I hear my enjoyment and my desire to not miss out on something I've been longing to do for a few years.

The irony: I sit across from people every week who, if you will, continue to re-injure their souls by continuing to say yes in ministry (or in life) to people and projects because of their own sense of indispensability... even though they're tired and on the verge of rupturing their soul. I recognize it, I ever so gently remind them of the possibility of keeping up this pace, and they ever so gently disregard the path toward healing. Only, I forget that every person I meet is a mirror to my own soul. And I sit here amazed and not a little embarrassed at my own ways of straining forward to reach a goal both physically and spiritually. The drive to be needed and/or necessary, sadly, can so often unhealthily motivate me.

In this I know there's a deeper layer...no doubt I am trying to meet a healthy need (to enjoy a recreational activity both physically and socially)...but there is an unhealthy manner hidden in my inability to “just say no” especially when my no feels costly to myself and to others. I can hear my chorus of inner critic voices chanting: “But what will they do without you?” “You can't let them down.” I don't think the gospels ever record Jesus (or His Father or the Spirit) saying these phrases... hmmm, more to ponder here.

Henri Nouwen speaks of the growth and satisfaction of our lives coming from more of an un-doing than doing. He writes,

It is hard to leave our people, our job, and the hectic places where we are needed in order to be with the One from whom all good things come. [But when we do we] can unmask the illusion of busyness, usefulness, and indispensability. It is a way of being empty and useless in the presence of God and of proclaiming our basic belief that all is grace and nothing is simply the result of hard work.”

Henri Nouwen, The Living Reminder

So, I have to leave my softball for a few weeks or more. I probably have to “leave” a few other things as the Lord unmasks more of my illusions of usefulness and indispensability – these strained soul places that I keep re-injuring. I will feel empty and useless sidelined, merely “cheering on my team.” The irony is without me, the team lost one game by over 20 runs...and with me we lost by over 20 runs...so, uh...maybe I'm not as indispensable as I think or want to be after all.

Lord, grant me the grace to be empty and useless in Your Presence...and healing of both my physical and soul achilles. Amen

 

If we didn't know "Sunday's coming"...

If we didn't know “tomorrow” was coming....

The One accused of insurrection (rising up against)

will soon reveal Himself in resurrection (rising up again).

But for those stunned by the violence of His death, the now silent void, the agony of internal regrets, the wilting hope and arduous waiting and futile wondering, this day is hell. Sorrow, ambiguity, second-guessing, denial, replaying the scene over and over again...

"What if we could have done differently?"

"If only we knew...If only I had listened"

"If only I...

  • ...hadn't waited to tell him I love him

  • ...hadn't fought with the others about who was the greatest when he was suffering

  • ...hadn't fallen asleep in prayer

  • ...hadn't denied my love for him under fear of accusation

  • ...hadn't deserted him and fled."

Without knowing the end of the story - it'd be easy to be angry at Pilate, the Pharisees, Judas, and even Jesus and God the Father who "willed" such a horrendous obedience. Or anger at myself for all I wish I would have done. Holy Saturday, it seems, is therapeutically designed to give us space to take a real, hard, honest look at our souls, our regrets, the things we wish we would have done differently, the places of unrest in our souls. To live this day knowing and jumping ahead to the end of the story robs us of the sanctifying work of grieving and, in modern AA language, an opportunity to admit our weaknesses as we take an honest, fearless moral inventory of our lives. We placate our pain, and our redemption, healing and the richness of forgiveness, by bypassing the tomb.

But today's the day to feel the lostness of my life without him. To honestly admit my struggles - my addictions to knowledge, food, affirmation, comfort, reputation, control, my savings account, privacy, measuring my success by the important and reputable people whom I know, busyness, numbing myself with media (fb, twitter, netflix, email, blogging), red wine and chocolate etc.

It is a day to admit my powerlessness and meager attempts to manage my human condition which prefers to worship me over all else. It is a day to realize how often I live in denial each time I avoid taking a courageous moral inventory because "at least I'm not as bad as him..." It is a day to believe (though, Lord, help my disbelief) that there is a Higher Power, a Greater Plan, a need to hold on to any thread of hope that's left outside of myself.

I'd much rather work in my garden, have a picnic in a park, finish my Easter dinner preparations - live life as "normal."

But "normal" isn't an option today.

I can try to deny, hide, justify and rationalize my humanity's foibles... busying myself with something else or say I'll get around to this later or forget all this morbid introspection and jump ahead to the good stuff of tomorrow's victory.

But if I didn't know tomorrow is coming... that tomorrow would bring not only relief, but change everything as I now know it... you, I, would be sober with our reality, the very reality we try to escape by our addictions and busyness. We'd take this day to feel deeply the extent of our misgivings, our questions, our restlessness, our mistakes. We'd feel how remaining unforgiven and harboring regrets mar even our best intentions.

The silence and aloneness of the tomb scares us.

A fearless moral inventory is for other addicts... I don't have a problem. I can quit anytime...

But tomorrow will mean nothing, if I do not, today, let the deep scarring within my humanity reveal my need for a Savior. I must be aware of the ways I live in illusions of control, knowledge, and the priorities of my agendas. I need to be willing to surrender my need to know, control and figure out, defend and procure a life of my choosing.

On this side of the resurrection I can go there because I know Someone Else knows how to sympathize with my weakness and offers mercy and grace in my time of need. I am not alone. I have no idea how the disciples endured these hours!

If ever there was a time of need, it is when Jesus has seemingly disappeared into a cold, dark, musty grave hewn in the side of a hill...and his followers who gave their all to become like them are left to wonder what life is really about.

All those arguments about who would be greatest don't seem so important anymore.

If I do not let my "self" - with all its fears, vulnerabilities, idiosyncrasies, dreams, illusions, preoccupations and ego-driven propensities toward jealousy, winning, being right, protection and control be crucified with Christ - I will not ever experience the reality Paul described in Col 3:3 and Gal 2:20. How can my life be hidden with Christ if I do not let myself die and be crucified with him?

"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death."2 Cor 7:10or as Eugene Peterson's Message puts it:

"Distress that drives us to God does that.

It turns us around.

It gets us back in the way of salvation.

We never regret that kind of pain.

But those who let distress drive them away from God

are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets"

If we didn't know tomorrow was coming, we would live today distressed. And the miracle of Christ's resurrection would utterly undo us in the morning, because it would leave us with all our regrets delivered! We would run to the tomb, to see for ourselves, that real life, given to us in His death and resurrection, is our greatest gift! But unless a kernel of wheat dies...it cannot bear fruit (Jn. 12:24).

Where is your distress leading you?

Lord, have mercy;

Christ, have mercy;

Lord, have mercy.

"Save Yourself!" - A Good Friday Liturgy

A Good Friday Responsive Reading: “Save Yourself”

good-thief.jpg

NARRATOR:


Two others, also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with Jesus. And when they came to the place which is called Golgotha (The Skull), there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. And Jesus said, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

And they cast lots to divide his garments. And the people stood by, watching; but the rulers scoffed saying,

CROWD
Save yourself! Save yourself!

NARRATOR

And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” And those who passed by derided Jesus, wagging their heads and saying,

CROWD:
You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God come down from the cross. Save yourself! Save yourself!”

NARRATOR:

So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying,

PRIESTS:

He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe Him. Save yourself! Save yourself!

NARRATOR:
The soldiers also mocked him coming up and offering him vinegar, and saying,

SOLDIERS

"If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself! Save yourself!"

NARRATOR:

One of the criminals who was crucified with him also reviled him in the same way, saying,

CRIMINAL:
"Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!"

CROWD:

Save yourself! Save yourself! Save yourself!

Save yourself!”

It is practically a North American mantra! Prove yourselves by defying the odds, overcoming your weaknesses, saving time, money, hassles, pain…

Our iconic American heroes are those who have saved themselves (and therefore have the right to “save” others): Oprah, the Donald, Dr. Phil have all discovered the secrets to riches, success, beauty and a life of maximum leisure. They are the epitome of self-salvation.

Even within the family of faith, why is it that we tend to see God as being “with” those who have testimonies of overcoming trials and temptations and failures, but we don’t see God “with” those who are willfully letting their flesh be put to death?

Those who live in a counter-cultural stream of surrender may, just as Christ did on the cross, look like a dismal failure for not “saving themselves.”

“Save yourself” – do what it takes to be smart enough, self-sufficient enough, pretty enough not to be mocked nor taken advantage of.

“Save yourself” = prove yourself sufficient, adequate, worthy, powerful, capable, smart, and even lovable. If you can save yourself, then I can follow you.

Why do we mock and ridicule the poor, the uneducated and those who look and act different than us? Why do we think they need saving more than we do? Could it be we are accusing them of not being smart enough, hard-working enough, and sufficient enough to save themselves unlike the way we have?

New Year’s resolutions – millions of people every year resolve to “save themselves” by organizing, exercising, eliminating debt, pounds, those extra pairs of shoes in the back corner of the closet, as well as unhealthy habits. But will they/we let God save them/us? Will they/we say, “Not my will of personal salvation, but yours be done!”

God never ever says, “Save yourself!”

Amazon.com has over 58,000 self-help titles in their library. If you read one book a day, it’d take you nearly 159 years to read them all.

Does anyone see the irony in this mocking cry?

God never ever says, “Save yourself!”

But He invites us, “Come to me to live. Die to self, and you will gain abundant life!”

Personal Meditation

Look at Matthew 27:27-44

Consider: God’s solution for salvation.

Pray: Lord, let me accept Your death for my salvation.

Repent: Lord, these are the ways I try to save myself…

Trust: Lord, these are the ways I will trust you to save me…

The struggle of ordinariness...a Lenten reflection

46 They came to Jericho,

and as Jesus was leaving with his disciples and a large crowd,

a blind beggar named Bartimaeus son of Timaeus was sitting by the road.

47When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout,
Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!
48Many of the people scolded him and told him to be quiet.

But he shouted even more loudly,
Son of David, have mercy on me!
(Mark 10:46-48 - Good News Translation)

I am struggling with the value of my days - wondering if what I do is actually productive and meaningful. I have a dozen friends who wonder the same as they fold laundry, push papers, make to-do lists they cannot manage, listen to others' latest fashion finds while standing in the church foyer, and scurry kids across town for violin lessons. I am so easily jaded by North American cultural norms that value things like busyness, productivity, efficiency and being accomplished. These norms make me restless with my ordinary days - I should get busy and do something more notorious, more exciting. Most days are neither notorious nor exciting.

The context of my 21st century life drives one kind of desperation...to manifest my own destiny and "make" something of my life. Yet within the depths of my own heart another desperation is pulsing - to be drawn beyond the pathologically overextended and self-absorbed norms of the world. Yet in my own morbid introspection in the push and pull between these various longings, I feel scolded by an innate sense of not being useful, effective or in control, and a little bit stuck and ordinary.

Scolded - that was the word that stood out in this morning's passage on Blind Bart - he was scolded for being desperate - for wanting. He knew what he wanted - he knew who could help him. His exhibition of need via verbal exclamation was quickly and very firmly "shushed." Well, an attempt was made to shush him - it didn't work so well.

My greatest scolding comes from within and seems to "shush" me far too easily:

  • "I should know better by now."
  • "Why can't I practice what I preach?"
  • "When will I get this - my identity is not in what I do or how effective, capable or recognized I am. My identity is in being chosen, wanted, loved as I am, not as I think I should be."

And in an instant - my longings for more, for Mystery, for healing get swallowed up by the scolding. Unlike Blind Bart, I don't scream more loudly toward God: "Son of David, have mercy on me!" I succumb to the "shushing", and let my longings get immersed in a frenzy of proprieties.

Why is it such a struggle to receive this - to integrate my value as the beloved of God into my daily living so that I stop my compulsive striving for significance? Am I gaining a covert gratification from all this introspection? Am I too afraid to live healed? How can I be free - live loved and without so much energy being sucked out by my fears? Why is His call to be with Him (Mark 3:13) not enough?

Just stating my struggle and relentless questions has lightened me a little.

Perhaps Deep has called out to deep and assured me at a level of which I am unaware. But now I can eek out a quiet, "I want to see too!" It might blossom to shouting some day. But today, Lord, I want the courage to live boldly and unashamedly in Your Presence - freely desperate for your healing despite these dratted internal and external scoldings I endure day to day - sometimes minute by minute.

Oh Lord, how will this manifest out into an equally restless and scolded world that also needs your healing? Every person I encounter today feels scolded for some way they are struggling to be smarter, thinner, faster, deeper. In short, scolded for their struggle to uncover their true and free self. Help me not to "shush" the longings - theirs or mine. I cannot help others unless you free me from my own scolding voices.

As you consider these words:
What word or phrase stands out to unnerve or ignite you?
In what ways do you scold yourself? Others? 

What longings for freedom are underneath?

The above is an excerpt from the unhurryUp! into Easter: A Lenten Devotional by Paula Gamble. For more information - please go to the Lent pilgrimage page on this website. Thanks.

Noticing our "divided" lives...

At Christmas, we celebrated God with us...God incarnating...the Holy becoming human and dwelling among us - and for those who have trusted His love and forgiveness - dwelling IN us. The incarnation, is a place where God cut the divide, in many ways, between sacred and secular. 

In Lent, we look at the things that keep us living "divided" - separating out God to certain parts of our days or week. In what ways (or in what parts of your life) do you live "divided"?

  • For you visual peeps - draw/take a picture that shows "division."
  • For you poetic peeps - how about a "tanka" (Japanese) style poem following these numbers of syllables 5-7-5-7-7 in the lines (no need to rhyme)
  • For you audio peeps - a video clip that captures the sound of division...

Looking forward to hearing/seeing your heart's interactions - feel free to join our Lenten pilgrimage community on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/571557362855343/

A very cool blessing

Today I got to participate with some Spiritual Directors in training - they are a part of the Franciscan Spiritual Center's program for SD training. It was an honor to be with them - hearing their hearts, questions, what they are discerning etc. At the end we gave and received a blessing.... eyes open to look at those sharing the journey:

Sacred is the call

Awesome, indeed, the entrustment.

Tending the holy

Tending the holy.

It was an honor both to give, and to receive and share that sacred space!

Disturb us, Lord...

Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
with the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wilder seas
Where storms will show Your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push back the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.
This we ask in the name of our Captain,
Who is Jesus Christ.

Sir Francis Drake

  • As you read this poem, what word or phrases most either expand or unnerve you?
  • What emotions do they "disturb" or elicit in you?

Read the poem again aloud

  • Ask the Lord... "How does this connect to my current life, relationships and circumstances?

Listen to what wells up in your soul. Consider journaling what you sense.

  • Ask the Lord... "What are you inviting me toward?"

As you enter into this week, each morning ask God for the grace to let Him "disturb" you away from the shore and toward the stars.

The role of doubt in our journey...

 

 

Today, in Catholic tradition, the church celebrates Thomas – the disciple who gained the moniker “doubting” because of his honest expression of his need/desire to see the scars of his crucified and risen Rabbi first hand. Perhaps Thomas is in the bargaining stage of grieving – afterall he just watched the one he had hoped was the Messiah be betrayed, surrender himself to arrest, unjustly tried, beaten, mocked, tortured and hung on a cross to die and laid in a tomb. Not that he was there to see all that, because he, along with all but John, deserted Jesus and fled the night of Jesus' arrest. No doubt he had doubts about himself as well...perhaps doubts about his own life choices...the scars of his own heart... the piercing of his soul that he deserted his friend.

 

While some of his companions may have been in the sad, or mad or denial stage of grief – it seems Thomas is in the bargaining stage- “unless I see X, I won't Y.” Somehow in this expression, he is self-contained and honest with his desire/need for a different outcome. He doesn't let it leak out into a impugning blame or a demand on others (e.g. “unless YOU do X, I won't Y” or “unless God does X, I won't Y.”) He states what he needs for himself. He states what He desires. He states clearly what wishes would happen or would be different – what he can and cannot do at this time. I cannot believe without seeing his scars.

 

I like how Thomas had the freedom of expressing this need. He knew Mary's story – how she encountered a “gardener” who spoke her name and in an instant she knew it was her Lord. He's heard the story of Peter and John running to the tomb, the appearance of angels declaring, “He is not here, He is risen!” He heard Cleopas and his pal from Emmaus talk about Jesus unpacking the Scriptures to them. He's heard everyone around him keep saying, “We saw the Lord!” But he didn't. He wanted to...needed to...and boldly expressed his desire.

 

The text doesn't tell us what happened after his declaration – did Philip roll his eyes? Did Peter sympathize with his doubt and sense of betrayal? Did Andrew come over to give him a pep talk? Or did Nathaniel try to reason with him based upon what he had seen? Did Bartholomew offer to pray for him so that he wouldn't stray from the faith? Or perhaps John came up and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. Did Mary want to hand him a tissue? We don't really know and this is all speculation. But that he states his reality and skepticism and needs in the midst of a group where everyone seems to be in the happy “we've seen the Lord!” club is bold vulnerability. Perhaps he could do this because he sensed this was a safe place where they were all grieving, all struggling, all hoping, all waiting, all patient with one another's journey.

 

Thomas could've stayed quiet. He could have let his internal shame critics wreak havoc: “Why can't you just believe? Why do you always have to question everything? How much proof is enough – it's never enough for you! Why do you have to be so difficult when everyone around you says differently? You are stubborn and a trouble maker. Why can't you just believe? Snap out of it!”

 

We don't know if he did or didn't. I suspect, because he was formed from the same fragile dust and flesh as me, that he probably had some internal banter. We are only given, however, his declaration of doubt.

 

Eight days later, Jesus appears in the locked room where the disciples are gathered. He speaks an oft-spoken post resurrection phrase: “Peace be with you.” Did the disciples remember Jesus saying during the last supper “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (Jn 14:27)”?

 

John 14 starts with Jesus saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, still, and trust in me...I am going now to prepare a place for you...I shall return to take you to myself...you know the way.” And then Thomas, this one to whom we ascribe doubt, questions Jesus' statement: “Lord, we do not know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” (14:5) Even here (just a few weeks prior), Thomas could have stayed quiet... Peter has already asked, “Where are you going?” (13:36) and Jesus has answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow now...” Thomas could have leaned over to whisper in John's ear, “What does he mean?” Thomas could've thought to himself, “Well if Peter asked and didn't get an answer, why should I bother?” Yet Thomas asks aloud.

 

During this passover meal, in the midst of all the disciples' questions and ponderments, the Lord speaks of peace and not letting your heart be troubled. In other words, “It's going to get crazy – difficult to believe – I don't give as the world gives...I am giving you peace, trust in God and me, do not be afraid.” Jesus knew his disciples would need to hear these words during his resurrection.

 

Fast forward to this upper room. Locked doors and Jesus appears, turning his attention to Thomas. Without Thomas asking and without the disciples intervening on Thomas' behalf, explaining to Jesus what they think Thomas needs and petitioning Jesus to give it to him, Jesus speaks. Jesus doesn't say, “Thomas, why didn't you believe your friends? You should have trusted them and remembered my words from our last supper. I told you so.”

 

He merely walks up to Thomas and says, “Put your finger here and see my hands; put your hand and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” And upon this encounter with God's scars, Thomas responds: “My Master and my God!”

 

I don't think this response was just a rote declaration – perhaps how we in the United States might mindlessly recite the pledge of allegiance or how some in liturgical churches might parrot the Lord's prayer, or how Jews might fastidiously recite the Shema. This declaration revealed who Thomas experienced God to be. A God with scars I can declare as my master and my God!

 

Unlike Mary, he doesn't respond, “Teacher.” Or like the two on the road to Emmaus who recognized Jesus, after many miles of walking, conversing and sharing bread - we don't hear Thomas talk about his burning heart in an aha moment of 20/20 hindsight. He needed to see and touch scars in order to make this faith his own. And Jesus, who could've appeared instantly when Thomas originally expressed his need, waits eight days. He reveals Himself exactly in a time and manner in which Thomas' heart can be unlocked ... same way He does to those of us today who are not in the presence of the physical, resurrected Jesus walking around with his scars.

 

Truth is, all the original eyewitness and followers of Jesus could be called “doubting.” Until He revealed Himself in the way they would recognize Him they were all doubters. It is not fair to give Thomas the moniker of “doubting.”

 

Let's call him courageous Thomas – the one who was willing to express his doubts openly, honestly without impugning others or making demands. Let's hope that more of us could participate in communities where there is space and freedom given to express doubt – to neither be talked out of our disbelief and questions nor patronized with pious cliches: “Just believe Thomas! You remember what He says and what the scriptures declare...” Thomas is not disavowed (literally or in pretense) from his community for voicing his doubt.

 

This encounter invites me to ask and live into my questions and doubts. This invites me to not just blindly take everyone else's word for it. Thomas invites me to be audacious enough (and hopefully in the presence of a safe community that honors without judgment every question and need) to express my longings of how I long to experience the resurrected Christ.

 

Thomas needed to touch Jesus' scars.

 

It wasn't enough for him to see Jesus at a distance, to encounter him in a garden and hear him calling his name; he wasn't the kind of guy who needed to bolt out the door to confirm someone's story or see linens lying in an empty tomb. He didn't need God or any of the others to unpack the apologetics of the Scriptures and show how from Moses through the prophets, God's word was pointing to Jesus; He didn't need to encounter Jesus breathing the Holy Spirit on him, or to see a boatload full of fish and eat breakfast on the beach. Thomas needed to know that the resurrected Christ had been pierced and scarred.

 

Tradition says that Thomas is the one who took the gospel to India. On a trip to India in 2007, I got to visit St. Thomas' mount. It is a small hill in Chennai, where it is said that Thomas was martyred. Thomas arrived in southern India in A.D. 52 and, while in prayer, was slayed with a lance through his back, (in A.D. 72). The striking image is in the entrance to the small church on the top of the hill. On the left side is a caricature of Thomas reaching up his hands toward the scars in Jesus' hands and sides. On the right, Thomas is kneeling in prayer with a lance about to be speared through his back.

What makes a doubter become a martyr? What takes a man from a chosen disciple, to a skeptic, to a missionary/evangelist/church planter, to a martyr 3000 miles away on another continent? The “skeptic” who needed to put his hand in Jesus' pierced side would die by being pierced during prayer on a hill in India. Coincidence?

 

Doubts” were integral to Thomas' faith journey. Doubts that could be expressed without everyone thinking he was off his rocker or backsliding into sin or heresy. Jesus knew how to meet his doubt. As a Spiritual Director, I need to trust that Jesus knows how to meet the doubts of those with whom I journey. I need to companion them as they consider, “What the heck is happening?” I need to create space where perhaps doubt can be given room to be lived into, or to reveal what I am really long for. I sometimes struggle to trust that Jesus can reveal himself in ways that will unlock a person's heart, including my own. It's easier to give advice, or a scripture, or my fine theories.

 

Doubt empowers faith and mission only through an encounter with the One who knows how to be with me in my every thought, fear, hope, question.

 

Things to ponder:

  • What doubts do I have?

  • What doubts do my friends have?

  • Do I have a place where I feel freedom to express my doubts – why or why not?

  • Am I able to create a space where others have freedom to express doubt? What is my first response to those who question? (Tell me more... or admonition to believe? Or?)

 

Join me in asking for the grace and courage to be able to entrust your heart to the One who knows exactly what you need to experience and when you need to experience it. He knows how to reveal Himself to all who are seeking.

 

And...if you're willing, express your doubt anonymously here in the comment section – I bet you are not alone.

What vs. Who ...

Today is the celebration of Peter in the liturgical church calendar. In the scripture reading for today, Matthew records this scene of Simon's life:

Matthew 16:13-19

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

 

First of all, I like that having just visited Caesaria Philippi, the place in which Jesus declares Peter as a rock looks something like this:

It wasn't out in a desert or in a lush green forest that Jesus talks about Simon being a rock - it was in the vicinity of THIS substantive rock. So much of the geography of the land of Israel contributes to the stories.

Second, earlier in the life of calling the disciples, Jesus asked some of them, "What do you want?" or as some translations say, "What are you seeking/looking for?" (John 1:38). But now, after a few years of this former fisherman leaving his nets to follow Jesus, Simon is asked a different level of question: "Who do you say that I am?" The question is deeper than just merely requiring a factual answer or description - for in declaring who Simon believed Jesus to be, Simon also revealed a bit of his relationship and commitment to Jesus.

For example, a husband can respond to his wife asking "who do you say that I am?" with her name, height, eye color, and occupation. That response says something about how he is relating to and/or what he values in his wife. Or he could say, "You are my beloved, given to me, a precious, beloved child of God and deep lover of life and beauty..." This answer reveals something far different about how he knows her, what he values about her, and how he connects with her. Whenever we describe something/one, I think we describe our relationship to that something/one.

A few years after following Jesus, the "what do you wants" don't seem as important now as the "who do you want." I instantly think of my daily prayers and life longings - honestly, too many days I spend more time interceding/requesting and focusing on the what's than the who. Or in family and friendships, there is, sadly, sometimes a subtle, subconscious what am I getting from time/space with this person vs. just being with a person for who they are. (I'm sure I'm the ONLY one who does this ;)

Simon doesn't answer the "who" question with mere facts. His declaration that Jesus is Messiah - means that everything Simon, as a good Jewish boy would believe is true about Messiah, affects how he will live. It reveals how Simon is connected to this Rabbi... he is more than a good teacher and superhuman curiousity. He is Messiah. And in this moment, Jesus - realizing that Simon could not have conjured up this answer (with all its implications) on his own, renames Simon - you are Petros and on this petra I will build my church...

Name changes in the Bible...always signify a new direction...a new focus...a new assignment. Peter has moved from a relationship with Jesus as a "what do you want?" to a "who do you want?" The name change almost marking the spot where Peter staked his life not on a task/what - but on a who. 

Would he do it perfectly? Thank goodness no! I take great comfort in Peter's honest portrayal of imperfection. But I sure want to pursue church and disciple building from a posture of who rather than from a posture what

  • What does this stir in you?
  • How might you celebrate Peter today?
  • What parts of Peter's life do you connect to most and why?
  • Who do you say Jesus is? What does that say about you?

 

 

 

Cacti in the Sand

Cacti in the Sand

Not all deserts are made of sand and dust and
Cacti
Some are desolate oases
In the midst of busyness
Sighted when one stumbles
And notices the barrenness
That is caused by doing and not
Stopping to soak in the present.
This is a call
To pitch a tent in solitude
And attend to the thirst
Deep in the center of one’s soul
Where the gifts of each moment,
Like cacti in the sand,
Are waiting to bloom.

March reflection provided by SDI member and poet Roberta Meyer of Holland, Indiana, USA.

Strengthening the Soul retreats -

 
  •  
    Strengthening the Soul - a package of seasonal day retreats to empower, anchor and enrichen your daily living
     
     
    "Who wants to live a shallow, hollow existence
    on the surface of things?
    We downsize our souls
    to achieve a safer bottom line
    of religious acceptability...
    to open up our souls and discover the fullness
    of who we are in the stream of God's love
    has not ever been an option for many Christians."
    ~Jeff Imbach
     
     
    And it is an option now!
     
    Introducing Strengthening the Soul - a series of 4 day retreats over the period of a year designed to open your soul to discover the fullness of who you are in the stream of God's love.
     
    Over the last 3 1/2 years of facilitating people toward God's love I've noticed there is something about pulling away with an intentional focus on God in a “spacious and unhurried place” that unsticks and empowers people in a way “normal” spiritual habits cannot... I've witnessed it over and over again in profound, whether subtle or overtly miraculous, ways. I've heard many speak of longing to participate in such a time, but because of either cost, time, or our all too commonly overstuffed lives, it continues to be something "I'll get to one of these days.”

    Well, one of these days is now here.

    How about investing in yourself by committing to 4 Saturdays over the period of a year where you might build a regular rhythm of caring for and strengthening the "you" that longs to live a full, rich, gutsy, and perhaps even messy but meaningful, life?

     
    These four Strengthening the Soul day retreats (1 per season over the year) meet a need for something in between an occasional day retreat and the more intensive 2 year commitment to the ACT Journey

    Strengthening the Soul -
    That's right - it's a quad of day retreats - a package deal - a "let's intentionally pursue soul care and soul strength this year with other people who long to do the same" type of thing.

    The dates:

    Once every 3 months over a year.
    Sept 27th,  Dec 3, 2011 & March 17, June 23, 2012
    Each retreat will run from 9am-3:30p on a Saturday.
     
    The Cost:
    Only $149 for all four retreats - this includes lunch! That's only $37.25/retreat!
     
    To put this in perspective: a "normal" day reFresh is $65. Though steep for some people, many of us still find the time and money to pay for a gym membership at $40+/month, and counseling...and massage...and sports tickets...and cable/satellite TV... Bottom line: we will invest in the things we think are important! What are you investing in your soul?

     
    The Place:The Table Community Church campus out in the beautiful rolling hills of Stafford, OR (Wilsonville). The church is an historic, white-steepled sanctuary with room to roam or cozy up in a corner.
     
    For more info and to register go click here.
     
    If you are a member of the Table, GracePoint Fellowship, or Cru and want to participate,
    please email me
     
    Special Offer
     
    The first five people to register and pay in full will receive a $25 refund. That amounts to $31 per retreat! What a deal!
     
    These five spots are likely to go fast... there are only 15-20 spots available. Please feel free to forward this to friends!
     
    The next day reFresh is around the corner!
     
    Sept. 17th at the exquisite
    (only 2 spots left)
      Fall dates for a day reFresh @ the wonderful DreamGiver's Inn 
     
    Oct 12th
    Nov 19th (Sat)
    Nov 30th (Advent)
     
    ACT Journey III
    Want to discover, recover or deepen your intimacy with Christ? Consider the 2012-2014 2-year ACT Journey. More info here.
     
    Next weekend reFresh
    Nov 11-13, 2011
    Consider coming together as a small group to enter the holidays with God's guidance!
    More info here.
     
     
     
     
     
    I'd love to journey with you in this upcoming year of day retreats designed to Strengthen Your Soul...
     
    ~paula
    Soul Artisan
     
    creating unhurried spaces
    to help others discover the art of living courageously and authentically in the stream of God's love