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Archive for the ‘Spiritual Formation’ Category

Text: Psalm 89:1-4

There are those songs.  You know the songs of which I speak. Songs laced with a hypnotic melody that cause them to be forever burned into our memory.  Songs so infectious that they appear to jump from one person to another like a bad cold. A young man on a subway is singing a little tune. An older gentleman sitting near him exits and whistles the tune as he scurries down the sidewalk.  A lady passing by picks up the tune and carries it with her to the waiting elevator and its only occupant – you.  She exits on the third floor and by the fifth floor, your toe is tapping and the humming begins. Despite your best efforts, you can’t stop it.  By the seventh floor, you give up the fight and belt out your off-key rendition of “I Write the Songs”.

The writer of the 89th Psalm understands about infectious songs.  He has a song so infectious he can’t help but sing it.  He has a song that must be released or he’ll burst.  It is a song of God’s amazing love and faithfulness. Your love, God, is my song, and I’ll sing it! I’m forever telling everyone how faithful you are.  I’ll never quit telling the story of your love.” (Psalm 89:1 – the Message)

This Advent season may we be unable to stop ourselves.  May we belt out the beautiful song of God’s lavish love and fidelity.  May our ceaseless humming of this amazing melody pour out onto all who share space with us and go on to infect the entire world this Advent season.

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A Glutton is . . .

"A glutton is one who raids the icebox for a cure for spiritual malnutrition."
                                       – Frederick Buechner

Damn it, Buechner.  Take all the joy out of my chocolate binges. Geez . . . as if I didn’t feel bad enough when I grabbed the Chunky Monkey from the freezer before I read your comment.

Don’t you hate it when people hit you right between the eyes with a two-by-four? 

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Rusted Out Buckets

Sometimes it takes me a long time to figure things out.  To do what I know.  To follow where I’m led.  To surrender to what is right.  To let go of what is wrong.

I chase after vanishing winds. I harness nothing which powers nothing.

I put my energies into bags with holes and rusted-out buckets.

"Take a good, hard look at your life.  Think it over. 
You have spent a lot of money, but you haven’t much to show for it. 
You keep filling your plates, but you never get filled up. 
You keep drinking and drinking and drinking, but you’re always thirsty. 
You put on layer after layer of clothes, but you can’t get warm. 
And the people who work for you [or minister to], what are they getting out of it?  Not much – a leaky, rusted-out bucket, that’s what. 

That’s why God-of-the-Angel Armies said:
‘Take a good, hard look at your life.  Think it over.’

Then God said:
‘Here’s what I want you to do: 
Climb into the hills and cut some timber.  Bring it down and rebuild the Temple. 
Do it just for me.  Honor me.
You’ve had great ambitions for yourselves, but nothing has come of it.
The little you have brought to my Temple I’ve blown away – there was nothing to it.

And why?  Because while you’ve run around, caught up with taking care of your own houses, my Home is in ruins.  That’s why.  Because of your stinginess.’"
                                                                          (Haggai 1:5-10)

If there ever were a family resemblence . . .
__ caught up with taking care of my own house?  CHECK
__ stingy?  CHECK
__ great ambitions for myself?  CHECK
__ put energy and time and love into rusted-out buckets?  CHECK
__ not warm enough; fed enough; content enough?  CHECK
__ brought my leftovers to God and hope God will work them? CHECK

Climb into the hills.  Rebuild the temple.
Do it just for God. Honor God.

My primary purpose is my relationship with God.  Ministry is an overflow.

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Tripping

From my Scripture reading today:

He [Jesus] left there and returned to his hometown.  His disciples came along.  On the Sabbath, he gave a lecture in the meeting place.  He made a real hit, impressing everyone.  "We had no idea he was this good!" they said.  "How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?"  But in the next breath they were cutting him down: "He’s just a carpenter – Mary’s boy.  We’ve known him since he was a kid.  We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters.  Who does he think he is?"  They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling.  And they never got any further.        Mark 6:1-3 (the Message)

Foot_in_the_dirtGod, pick me up and dust me off.
 
I don’t want to remain here – sprawled with my face buried in the dirt.

Every day I seem to trip over what little I know
and come up with a mouth full of dust. 

One minute I’m declaring amazement at your marvelous works.

The next minute I’m cutting you down
with accusations of unfaithfulness and apathy.

As I lay here prostrate before You
choking on what tripped me up,
I grasp my great fear.

That I might never get any further.

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Open a Vein

"Writing is really quite simple; all you have to do is sit down at your typewriter and open a vein."  Red Smith

Open a vein . . . quite simple?  I think not.  Painful . . . most definitely.  Messy . . . usually. In the days of early medicine when people would be under the daze of a high fever, doctors would open their veins to bleed out the "bad blood" so that the person might heal. 

Do successful writers open a vein?  Do writers who resonate with people bleed out?  In doing so, do writers heal? Does the opening of the vein benefit more the writer or for the reader? 

It seems often that Christians don’t want to bleed.  There doesn’t seem to be much blood-letting in the Church these days.  Few people speak honestly of hurts and pains.  Even fewer people confess their failures or the temptations that they struggle to shake.  We put a lot of work into making sure no one knows we bleed.  How tacky and weak to open a vein in the Church. 

But in private, oh, do we bleed.  We gush.  Having worked so hard to hide it from others, by the time night makes its appearance we can no longer hold it in.   How scary and frightening to bleed alone. To wonder if it will ever stop.  To fear that someone will see the stains or that perhaps one time in the light of day you will not be able to stop the flow. And then your secret will be out.  You bleed.

Then one Sunday you stand up timidly in your pew piercing the quiet of the sanctuary with your presence. You slowly roll up one your sleeves revealing bloody bandages covering wounds.  Without saying a word or meeting a glance, you tear the bandages off and open the vein.  You pour out to this community, this gathering of people who have no visible scars or blood stains.  When you finish, a young woman stands up in the back and rolls up her sleeve revealing the truth.  An older gentlemen stands up behind you, removes his tie and unbuttons his shirt to reveal the bandage across his heart.  One by one they stand.  They open the vein.  In that moment with all of our wounds exposed and our pain gushing from each wound, we see what church should be.

Who will stand and bleed first?

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Calling

It’s storming oustide.  I love storms.  I sat on my deck for awhile, listening to me IPOD and letting the wind whip me hair all over the place.  Fantastic!

From my devotional this morning:  "The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet." – Frederick Buechner.  He says it another way, “The work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done.”

We seem to get one or the other right but often miss finding a place where the two intersect.  I am blessed to have found my place at this time in my life.  Helping people brings me deep gladness.  Youth and the world hunger for God whether they realize it or not.  So, where the two intersect is where I find myself. 

Think about what brings you a deep gladness.  What you most need to do.

Think about what the world hungers for.  What the world most needs to have done – whether they realize it or not. 

Perhaps in that intersection you will find some clue as to where your vocation is – the work that God calls you to.

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Loving God, we know there are tremendous problems facing the world – natural disasters, civil wars, violence, disparities in resources, and sickness. We confess that there are days when we look the other way, change the channel, or pretend the problems don’t exist. We say that the problem is someone else’s concern or displace the blame. We are not confident that we can make an impact and we fear failure for ourselves on the behalf of others. We might even think that moving to make a difference will change us in ways that we will not like or make us uncomfortable. Before we even begin, we desire to give up – on our opponents and on the victims.

Forgive us for our faint-heartedness and selfishness, for failing to love others as we should, and for failing to believe that you have empowered us to protect our brothers and sisters.

Remind us, Holy One, that some faithful persons refused to give up on us, and that You have not given up on any of us. AMEN

A Prayer from the Save Darfur Campaign.

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