Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills —
from where will my help come?
2My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
3He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4He who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade at your right hand.
6The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time on and forevermore.

I have been nourished by this prayer for years. As I prayed it today with a handful of other people it struck me in a new way given the fact that I continue to live with an unpredictable and incurable neurological disease. I have been reading other people's blogs who suffer from the same type of disease, although they have lost more than I have.

What does it mean to have the protection of God in the midst of suffering? At some place in my soul there must be a reconciliation of the goodness of God and the pain that I experience along with the pain others live with. Without this reconciliation I will suffer without hope; for if God is not good then who is? Pain without the mystery of Christ is meaningless and futile. Pain with Christ can be transformed or in my case being transformed daily. There is much work left to do in my soul, however I know that the work is being done. God is at work in the deep recesses of my being transforming, healing, forgiving and reconciling all things through his Son.

This is the reason for hope and joy in my life. My pain is not my own, it is my Lord's and he is working in, through and despite me. He never sleeps, never leaves and therefore I can grow in praying alongside the Psalmist that God will keep me from all evil.

Some Prayers

Here are some prayers I wrote for Sunday

Abba,We come to praise you simply because you are worthy to be praised. We stand in wonder and awe at the beauty of your creation. We thank you for your boundless love, limitless compassion and endless mercy. Help us to see your sustaining presence in all aspects of our world.

Lord Jesus,
We come to praise you for your humble entry into our world to bring forgiveness and new life. We look to you for wisdom, guidance, and hope. Without you life would have no meaning or purpose. Help us to respond daily to your call to follow you.

Beautiful Spirit,
We come to praise you for you too are God. Without your gentle presence in our lives we would be lost. We would neither have faith in Christ nor the grace needed for daily living. Help us to become more aware and open to your presence in our lives and your movement in the world.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Someone asked me recently if our sinfulness makes God sad. This is a common question and one that if we are not careful can obscure the love of God and the freedom from condemnation. For example if we say yes then the conclusion is that God is sad about me when I sin. Since I sin often God is often sad. This is dangerous because of the view of God's nature it can easily lead to.

God is forgiving, we see this most poignantly when Christ is on the cross and he seeks forgiveness for those who crucified him. God is mercy, love and forgiveness. God also suffers when we suffer, God is compassion. God enters into the suffering of all humanity and much of that suffering is a result of our choices which are blinded by sin.

In terms of our relationship with God our sins are not a barrier to union and intimacy with God, Christ made this so. Therefore I think it is more helpful to ask the question not about what makes God sad, but what makes us sad, what moves our hearts.

For example I say a picture recently of an infant in Africa who is starving to death because his mother doesn't have the nutrition needed to produce breast milk. (here is the link) It is more helpful to check my own heart because it can move me to action, to enter the suffering and work for a just world.

If my heart has been touched by the Love of God then it impossible not to respond in love and action. Compassion demands action. The source of compassion is the wellspring of God's love in Christ. If I am still seeing God as being unhappy with my limitedness then I am not touching the transforming reality of unlimited compassion for all and a heart for justice.

We can trust the transforming love of God in Christ, we do not need to try to make it a law, the freedom of Christ will result in a fruitful life.

Notes from wG for May 19

1. Scriptural reading with less quantity and more contemplation is better. Dwell on the meaning; how does it apply to me and my circumstances
2. No one person can give another person wisdom, they can only help us discover it.
3. Approach spiritual growth as mystery; multi-faceted mysticism.
4. Without mystery there is no tension in life; no pull-pull or push-push
5. Spiritual growth is a life-long journey never reaching fulfillment in this life.
6. Attention is a form of love. When we worship, pray, or work on scriptural study we have our attention on God. God always has His loving, tender, kind, (fruits of the Spirit of God) attention on us with no shame, guilt, or reproach attached.
7. When we confess - we wake up to our sins - we have self awareness of our sinfulness.
8. When we are awake, we become more aware of Christ and his Love. We see Christ in others because He is fully in us
9. Praying without ceasing means we live in a way that continuously gives our attention to God. When we love our neighbor, we give them attention.
10. Spiritual growth is demonstrated through our becoming more loving and compassionate.
11. When our ego is out of control, it is always looking to be fed or gratified; self gratification. No one person can meet our deepest need to be fully and unconditionally loved. Only God can do that. As our realization of God's presence grows, so does our understanding of His love for us.
12. We need to learn to trust God's grace; His remodeling of our hearts toward the fruits of the Spirit. This makes us free to love; love without compulsion.
13. We need to make time to pay attention to God.This is done in silence and solitude through prayer, worship, contemplation, and spiritual reading or study with wise teachers who have gained much wisdom through the Scriptures.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Source of Love

The heartbeat of the universe is love. It is the energy that flows through all and unifies all. Much of the spiritual life is the process of deepening our realization of love. Some of the best places to start seeing love is by looking at nature. There is such beauty and wonder. Listening to birds sing is to listen to the song of love.

As the eye of our heart is opened we see love in more obscure places, in people who are different than us, in the pain of life and in the isolation we so often feel. Seeing love and knowing we are loved gives us grace to live open, free lives that trust rather than fear.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Song of the Heart

A few days ago I had a painful medical test. During the times it hurt most I sang in my mind and heart a song I have sung for years "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom". I sing this to my daughter when we snuggle for bedtime and I sang it to her when she was an infant and I rocked her asleep. Since this song/prayer has dropped into my heart it is a source of strength in all times.

One of my professors at seminary suggested each congregation had a handful of songs that would help shape their spirituality. This way the people would have a common spiritual source and if they dropped into the heart then it they would be a resource at any time and in any need.

Do you have a prayer/song of your heart?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Review of Life

One of the essential tasks of the spiritual life is a review of life. It is an important practice to develop. Writing in a journal is a good way to think through our life, our calling and to help listen to what God is saying in our lives. It is so hard to grow spiritually without this process of review. Another way to think of this is the process of repentance. Repentance is simply to look at our life strategy in light of the good news that the kingdom of God is present.

God's presence and promise are available now, in fact they are only available in the now. For God is always in the present and we are always in the present, to think God is only in the future is to miss God entirely. To try to recover God from the past is to miss the presence of God now. Our spiritual practices help us to experience the nowness of God.

To review our life is to look at how we are present to God, to look at our intention, to look at our availability and vulnerability.

This review is a gift of grace. God is so tender with us that there is always enough grace to sustain us as we look at our lives. God's love enables us to review our lives, to rethink who we are and where we are going. While there may be challenge involved in the change it is always laden with mercy and love. The Spirit works to shape us and forgiveness surrounds us when we fail.

How often do you journal?

Who do you review your life with? Who is part of your spiritual community?

How do you experience the review of life as a grace filled, love powered activity?


Another key word on our spiritual journey: vulnerability. To be vulnerable means to let our guard down and to open up the walls we have made between ourselves and God and ourselves and others. It takes great courage to be vulnerable with God because we have to begin to lean into grace and lower our pride. So often the patterns we have in our lives are about performance and earning our way in the world. We bring these patterns into our spiritual life. However they are not life giving patterns. With God there is no shame, condemnation or guilt. God is pure radical love that can accept all, forgive all and integrate all.

It is only when we are vulnerable with God, when we are really being ourselves that we can experience this love. If we try to prove to God that we are good, or feel guilty about asking too much or not praying enough then we miss the grace. Simply sit before God in silence, bring to mind all that you are ashamed of and listen to forgiveness, love, acceptance, mercy, tenderness, compassion and joy over you. This is all there really is in God and this is foundation of all interior work. We can never really move forward without a clear, accurate understanding of God as love in each and every moment of our existence. Receive your title as beloved, for this is your true self.

It is a challenge because we must let our ego go and be vulnerable to loss of those things that are hindrances in the way. Pride also wants to earn God's love and to be vulnerable is to risk losing our pride and coming to God with nothing, only receiving blessing. This is not the way of the world but it is the way of the kingdom.

What would it take for you to simply sit and listen to God?

What are the barriers for your vulnerability?

Who can help you grow in the grace of understanding God's love for you?

Are you willing to be transformed and come to God in humility?


Very few are called to the eremitcal life; that is the life of a hermit. Most of us all called to live in community and to grow in grace together. Sadly many Christians live alone while in the company of others. The standard pattern looks something like this: attend worship on Sunday, receiving the blessing of worship but rarely making any more than surface conversation with anyone else. Attend a class which gives information with little relation. Read or pray alone regularly and then go to work and tend to fmaily issues without really getting a sense of deeper community. We can find ourselves living a solitary spiritual life which for most is not their calling. Living this kind of spiritual life oftens means people get "stuck", the don't grow and get content to sit in the patterns they have been in for years.

Authentic spiritual community is one of the tools God uses to shape our hearts and minds. These places of grace are a gift from the Lord and a necessity for growth. Monks were only allowed to be hermits after years in community and then it was with the blessing of their abbot. I would encourage all people to seek a place where they can be in authentic spiritual community and recieve the blessings God has ordained for those moments.

Friday, May 8, 2009

More thoughts on availability

Availability does not mean inserting ourselves into places we are not called. It means to open our lives to the unique calling God has for us. The key is not trying to be someone other than God called and created us to be.

Availability therefore is a process of removing the barriers that would keep us from growing into who we are meant to be. Many of those barriers are connected to our ego and the false self. Pride and fear are perhaps the two greatest barriers.

A person ruled by pride is not receptive or open to change, they do not have a "beginners mind" and therefore they learn little. Life has a way of stripping our pride and at these times we become more aware of the Divine in our lives. Pride is the opposite of humility and is not a Christlike attitude (see Phil 2).

Fear keeps us from trusting that the gentle rule and reign of God is present in our lives. If we are ruled by fear then it is hard to trust that God is the shepherd of our souls. We fear the unknown because we do not trust Christ has already gone ahead of us. Christ's perfect love casts this fear out and opens us to losing our lives for his sake. We can trust the one who gave his life on the cross and whom God raised from the dead.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


This is a central word on our spiritual journey. Availability is our openness to God and to our neighbor. Being available to God means that we open our heart to the Living God. We hold loosely all that we have and are in our being, our heart or core. Those things which we have defined ourselves by we make available to the Spirit of God to blow away or to say. To be available is to abandon ourselves to God for their is nothing greater in life than total abandonment to God.

This is my personal quest, that is why my teachers are people who have done this and are doing this.

A sage once said that a saint is available to be used by God or left in the corner by God, they are content either way. An available person opens their whole being to God and this takes great trust in the mercy and goodness of God. To be available means to spend time with God, how can once hear the voice of the Divine if they never listen? Listen in silence and stillness. This is what my friends at Sky Farm teach and model for me.

Being available also implies a willingness to let go and to change to become even more in tune with the will of God. Jesus was always available to the will of the Father, he did nothing of his own, only what he was called to do. Wow.

Availability to God also means that we are available to all that God loves, which means we are available to all. We don't need to seek people out per se, rather we should welcome all that God sends our way and give them what they need at the time. This is a radical call to hospitality, and one I find challenging. Sometimes we make our material goods available, other times we make our wisdom available, sometimes it is compassionate listening.

A person who is available is truly present to whomever they are with, they are not planning or thinking about the next thing to say, or the next task or the plans for later in the night. They simply are present to Christ as he comes in the disguise of our neighbor. I long to live this way.

Reflection Questions

1. How available to God are you? What do you desire in terms of your availability to God and others?

2. What are the ways you make yourself available? For example do you attend worship, small group, pray regularly etc...

3. Who can help you grow in your understanding? For example Thomas Merton helps me understand the contemplative life.

4. What holds you back from being more available, what are the thing you hold tightly onto that may not be worth holding?

Journal about these issues....


Our intention is a powerful force. When it comes to the development of our inner life we need to ask ourselves what is our intention? Do we really want to be transformed? Do we want to grow? Are we willing to count the cost and enter into a new way of living?

Many of us are afraid of growth, we say we want to change but yet never enter into the habits or practices to facilitate the growth. This is a matter of intention. What do we really want?

One of the key areas is to reflect on is our use of time. We hear so much these days about being too busy. Well if we are too busy then we will likely not see the transformation we say we seek. Yet if our intention is to change then our intention/desire will shape how we organize our day. To enter into the contemplative life one needs to spend time with the Lord, there is no shortcut to spending time in prayer, meditation, reflection, study and community.

If our desire is to seek God then we must trust God that the things that need to get done will get done and those things that don't get done are not worth doing. Jesus tells us to lose our lives for his sake. The great masters of the spiritual life ordered their life around the quest for God, not hoping God would fit into their schedule. This is a deep challenge to average American Christian.

Of all the things, which go on into eternity? Are our lives ordered around what is really important?

Notes from May 5 from wG

1. read daily Mark 8 vs. 34-38 so that it becomes who we are in Christ
2. think about who/what we want to become---what is our intention for our life---it must align with Christ's intention for our life
3. availability; who/what are we available to---we must be available to God and to our neighbors. We must live out our availability and trust Christ that all that we think needs to be done, he will help/guide us to do. This comes from the heart.
4. we need to read scripture daily.....less is more and contemplate the reading so we can hear God's voice.
5. we need to work in the Gospels first and the Psalms second. This will help us to understand Christ's life and how we can incorporate his life and teaching into our life.
6. start in Mathew 5 vs. 1 and place our names in the versus until be believe we are children of God and blessed.
7. how do we live the Gospel? what practices and habits do we incorporate into our lives to live the Gospel
8. we need regular periods of reflection time so we can review our life to see if we are living the Gospel. must journal to use as basis for path corrections.