Thursday, February 25, 2010

Pick up your pyre and follow Me

I taught a class on suffering and joy last night, and am still thinking about it today.

This morning's thoughts expanded on the idea of our being called to carry the cross.

The key of course, is sacrifice. We have a God who demands sacrifice. It's true that Jesus once and for all time became the ultimate sacrifice, the final lamb. But the sacrifice continues. It is once and yet still. It is always. Perpetual. And He calls us to join in.

He calls us to carry our cross the way He carried His.

The way Isaac carried the bundle of sticks intended for his funeral pyre.

We become the body of Christ, and are called to participate in His passion and death. We are called to BE sacrifice.

But something has happened over the last century or so. We've shrugged off our willingness to participate. So much of Christianity has turned completely away from this essential tenet. So many denominations and churches focus on a cross-less Christianity, a fictional feel-good version of the real thing. A comic book version. We have altar-less altar calls, cross-free sanctuaries, and ministers with no priestly duties.

We have a  God who demands sacrifice, worshiped by a people who have largely rejected it.

Lord, what would you have me do?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

I am sorry, and thank you

from 2/18/10

I am in a season of inflicting pain.

It has been a long time since I inflicted so much, and so deep.

Pain like this is a double edged sword, cutting also the one who wields it.

He has mostly protected my heart, surrounding it in a protective cacoon, distancing it from the hurt enough to be survivable.

This morning I prayed about it. I asked forgiveness for the pain I am causing, and gave thanks and praise for how He is already working through it in the one who is the target.

How strange it seems to feel both. How strange it is that He works through pain so much.

Inside their very shell

She did not talk to people as if they were strange hard shells she had to crack open to get inside. She talked as if she were already in the shell. In their very shell.

-- Marita Bonner

Friday, February 19, 2010

On co-creation

A wondering from sometime past:

I think perhaps the reason that Lucifer and his equally delusional host fell was a very particular form of jealousy.

I think that when the Father decided to make man, the angel of light got ticked off. Sure he pretended to disdain our bodies with all their incumbent demands and messiness. But in reality, He was jealous.

You see, we are the only creatures in all of the created order, seen and unseen, physical and spiritual, who co-create new spiritual beings with Him. With Him we work to populate eternity with new souls, souls who can also choose to love and serve Him.

Or not.

Despite his puffed up braggadocio, his claims at superiority, Lucifer was pissed.

So off to the garden he went, tempting fruit in hand, to prove that he still had some measure of control. And he's still hard at it, pulling us into his maelstrom of envy and fear and pride and anger. Trying to get us to stop the co-creation, or at the very least, to distort it into malignancy, and succeeding in many cases. Getting us to kill the newest souls before they leave the safety of their mothers' wombs.

How he must laugh, and brag, and ridicule us for our gullibility. In watching us swallow his lies like vitamins, how assured he must be of his superiority.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Grant that I may not so much...

I've been thinking about how much easier it is to love, to give love, than to receive it.

St. Francis calls us to it in his prayer:

Grant that we may not so much seek to be loved, as to love.

It seems good advice all around.

Loving rather than being loved is not merely more of a gift, more of a self-donation. It is also less painful. By a long shot.

Perhaps that is why God -is- love. Perhaps that is how Yeshua stands the pain of rejection throughout eternity, and doesn't anhialate all the universes in a cataclysmic explosion of grief.

He loves. He is love. He seeks to love.

Grant me, Lord, that I may not so much seek to be loved, as to love.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday

I read the following this morning, and found it tremendously comforting:

He remembers that we are dust.
(Psalm 103:14)

On Eucharistic Adoration

An Hour In Paradise

Look upon the hour of adoration assigned to you
as an hour in Paradise.
Go to your adoration
as one would go to Heaven,
to the divine banquet.
You will then long for that hour
and hail it with joy.
Take delight
in fostering a longing for it in your heart.
Tell yourself, “In four hours, in two hours,
in one hour, our Lord will give me an audience
of grace and love.
He has invited me;
He is waiting for me;
He is longing for me.”

- Fr Vincent Martin Lucia

Saturday, February 13, 2010

She who was not afraid

I've been looking at gospel accounts of angelic visitation, and while I didn't do an exhaustive study to make sure I got them all, I noticed something interesting.

The angels consistently began their communication with "Do not be afraid." It must be a frightening thing to encounter such a spirit. Zechariah, Peter, Mary Magdalene, all were told not to be afraid.

The interesting thing is the exception. Gabriel did not open this way to Mary at the annunciation. Instead, he honored her, saying "Hail, oh highly favored one."

Gabriel must have been ready to burst (if an angel can be filled with excitement and joy), holding back what he knew about who she was, and who she was to become.

Joy on the cliff of despair

For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.

--Ann Morrow Lindbergh

Friday, February 12, 2010

Chosen both despite and through

What must it have been like for Jacob, obeying the command of his mother to steal his father's blessing?

"May God give you of heaven's dew
and of earth's richness—
an abundance of grain and new wine.

May nations serve you
and peoples bow down to you.
Be lord over your brothers,
and may the sons of your mother bow down to you.
May those who curse you be cursed
and those who bless you be blessed."
(Gen 27:28-29)

What would it have been like to commit such a gravely sinful act, and have it turn out to be such a pivotal part of the unfolding of salvation history?

Did he have any concept of what God was doing?

Did he ache from guilt, while at the same time raising himself to the calling to which he was called?

Isn't it amazing that the Father selected him, not merely --in spite-- of what he did, but in fact, through it?

God often works through us despite our sinfulness, but in this case, the sin itself was part of what He called Jacob to be. The stolen blessing made him the chosen one.

Lord, I love you. May you so also work in my life. May any sins I commit further your purposes.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

No easy yes

I've been thinking about the freeing of an incarcerated Peter, as described in Acts 12:6-11.

I imagine that Peter was content to remain in jail, if that were God's will, even though a jail of that era must have been a dirty, cold, forsaken place. I'm sure he knew well what Paul later described in detail; the honor and glory of sharing in his Lord's sufferings, for His purposes.

But God had other plans, and sent an angel to free him.

He must have been afraid. Afraid that worse pain and perhaps even death awaited outside, in the form of two guards, rather than freedom.

He could have remained there, questioning what the angel meant. He could have argued scrupulously with the angel about his need to participate in Christ's time of imprisonment, and stayed there.

Did he have time for an internal dialog, debating the risks?

What would have happened if he said NO to the angel?

What would have happened if he stayed there, shackled in darkness?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

His face

I nearly forgot: while pouring out the spirit in prayer in the Jacksonville church a few weeks ago, I saw Christ's face behind my eyes. It was strange; I never envision His face.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Word happens

While at the church in Jacksonville, I prayed in tongues while trying to pour His spirit up and out of His temple.

In the past, I had always thought that charismatics prayed in tongues to call Him down upon them. Asking Him to fall. And that is what many (most? all?) are asking.

But as I prayed in this way, focusing on pouring Him out while letting prayer pour from my lips, He explained that this is a way of further unleashing Him from within. It is a way of speaking the Word wordlessly.

In some situations, He chooses to take over further, and it turns from our prayer to His. He speaks.

The Word speaks.

And in these charismatic gatherings, when warrior temples pray in tongues and the Spirit seems to fall, I think that it is more than falling. He rises within and speaks and His power is made manifest.

When God speaks, things happen.

Creation happens.

Destruction happens.

Healing happens.

Deliverance happens.

The Word happens.

Sometimes, when we pray in tongues, the Word happens.


Go to sleep in peace

Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones. And when you have finished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.

--Victor Hugo

Monday, February 8, 2010

Neither lamb nor throne

I attended a wedding on Saturday morning at a Presbyterian church.

It was through a Presbyterian church that our Lord called me a decade ago and so I carry a perpetual gratitude to that denomination. But my heart ached for it on Saturday as I looked around the church, and saw the position of the lectern.

The church was traditional, perhaps 100 years old or so, with wooden pews, two stained glass windows showing Jesus as shepherd, and not a crucified Christ in sight. I don't even remember seeing a cross...

At the front was a raised area, and the pastor moved to stand behind the lectern to deliver his word to us. Center stage.

The lectern was center stage.

This man's speech to us was the center of the worship service.

Not the cross, not the altar, not the lamb, not the body and blood shed for the life of the world. But the lectern.

Lord, may it be that some day soon all churches everywhere will return You to the center. May the world yearn to commune with you, and seek you. May they all eat of your body and drink of your blood, and so have eternal life.

And may I never stand in the way of anyone reaching you.

Two ways

There are two ways to get enough: one is to continue to accumulate more and more. The other is to desire less.

-- G. K. Chesterton

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The important thing

The important thing is this: To be able at any moment to sacrifice that which we are for what we could become.

--Charles DuBois

Friday, February 5, 2010

6 year old wisdom

If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend who you hate.

-- Nikka, age 6

Thursday, February 4, 2010

What will people think???

Jesus Freak

[What will people think
When they hear that I'm a Jesus Freak?
What will people do
When they find that's it's true?]

Separated, I cut myself clean
From a past that comes back in my darkest of dreams
Been apprehended by a spiritual force
And a grace that replaced all the me I've divorced

I saw a man with tat on his big fat belly
It wriggled around like marmalade jelly
It took me a while to catch what it said
Cause I had to match the rhythm
Of his belly with my head
'Jesus Saves' is what it raved in a typical tattoo green
He stood on a box in the middle of the city
And he claimed he had a dream

What will people think
When they hear that I'm a Jesus freak
What will people do when they find that it's true

I don't really care if they label me a Jesus freak
There ain't no disguising the truth
[ain't no disguising the truth, no I ain't hiding the truth]

Kamikaze, my death is a gain
I've been marked by my Maker
A peculiar display
The high and lofty, they see me as weak
Cause I won't live and die for the power they seek

There was a man from the desert with naps in his head
The sand that he walked was also his bed
The words that he spoke made the people assume
There wasn't too much left in the upper room
With scabs on his back and hair on his face
They thought he was strange by the locusts he ate
YOU SEE The Pharisees tripped when they heard him speak
Until the king took the head of this Jesus freak

People say I'm strange, does that make me a stranger
My best friend was born in a manger
People say I'm strange, does that make me a stranger
My best friend was born in a manger

What will people think
What will people do
I don't really care
[What else can I say]
There ain't no disguising the truth

The sound of joy

My church's mid week discipleship program started up again last night. The session this time focuses on joy. I'll be teaching in a few weeks, on joy in and through suffering; my favorite topic!

The first class talked a bit about what joy -is-, and what it is not.

During this discussion, someone asked about holy laughter, perhaps in response to the stories that DiDi and I have been telling from our trip.

I thought about this laughter, the sudden unleashing of inexplicable joy that bubbles up uncontrollably, pure gift from the Holy Spirit. A quick taste of the joy of heaven.

And I wondered if Joseph and Mary's household was given this gift. Did Jesus' home ring with the sound of this infectious joy?