Thursday, February 25, 2010

Learning from Christ through creation

Once while I was hiking during passing rain storms I came to a resting place just as the weather took a brief break. During that break I could see for just a moment the beauty of the surrounding hills as the clouds pushed through dropping their moisture on an already soaked earth. It was a beautiful moment. I couldn't help but think of Christ as the one in whom and for whom all things were created and in whom all things are sustained. It is the Lord's hand holding the vastness of the scene before me.

At the same time I was noticing the vastness of the hills I saw a spring flower that had just bloomed. The bush had many that were about to bloom but this little lavender flower had beat the others to the punch. Gazing upon that flower I felt loved. Let me explain.

That flower is beautiful and unique, it a treasure to be able to behold it. It exists because God wills it and nothing we create can match the beauty and majesty of what the Mater can do. In the same way Jesus tells us that God cares more for us than he does for that little flower or the rolling hills. In the vastness and wonder of creation Jesus teaches us that we are unique and that God cares for us in a special. What love the Lord has!


One of the words that I want to explore a little is re-creation, otherwise known as recreation. I made the prefix stand our because "re" means again and well creation is creation. The word then means to create again. We all need re-creation, we need times of rest and renewal.

Something I am hoping we will learn is how to integrate our spirituality into our recreation so that they truly become times of rest, renewal and an expression of the sabbath. Take golf for example. For many golf is a passion and a past time but it is not spiritual time at all, even for many Christians. Some might think of my notion of golf as spiritual sacrilegious.

Golf is outside in the world that God created and sustains by his word. Golf is generally done with other people, it is relational. Golf involves focus and ties our body and mind into a single activity. Golf is a privilege. Given the right approach golf can be a very spiritual experience, especially when: we give thanks to God for the beauty of creation, we recognize the holiness of the people we are with, give thanks for our bodies and the ability to golf and yield to the fact that we need re-creation as part of our humanness.

As we learn to re-create then we are refreshed for the work ahead and also we begin to build the awareness of God's presence in and through our entire life. We can begin to build a prayerful approach to life that will ground us in whose we are and who we are. Learning to be grounded and prayerful during re-creation will help us learn to be grounded in the more challenging times in life.

Many people will never go on spiritual retreats at retreat houses but they will hike, golf, fish, climb, hunt, boat and do a host of activities that have a spiritual element to them and with proper training can work like catapults throwing them into a deeper relationship with Christ.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Since it is Lent and Lent has a typical desert them I thought I would write on the desert experience a little bit. Jesus is taken to the desert by the Spirit and there he is tempted and succeeds. For me moving into the desert might be a calling from the Spirit, we know the Spirit is involved but I also have the element of my disease which can quickly send me into the desert.

For me the desert is a time of struggle. I struggle on many levels: physical, emotional, spiritual. Some of these struggles are temptations to doubt the goodness of God and to wrestle with the meaning of pain and suffering. Some of the desert is feeling not as close to God yet knowing at the same time he is closer to me than I am to myself. I find in these moments the practice of remembrance is powerful.

Remembrance is a significant part of the biblical story and a command of Jesus at the eucharist, he says "do this in remembrance of me". So what do I remember? I remember my times of closeness to the Lord first and foremost. I also remember my earlier desert seasons. This helps me to know that Christ is still present working in my life even if I don't always see it. This practices takes the sting out of the desert and makes it more like a normal cycle in life, nothing to be feared and nothing that will last forever. Knowing that life comes in seasons is deeply helpful.

I also remember the things I am grateful for and I bring those to mind, what a powerful practice gratefulness is! I remember the character of God. God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. What a good thing to know and remember! Also God is gracious and his forgiveness is like the very air we breathe!! Knowing that God is gracious to me allows me to be gracious and tender with myself while in the desert and not to get too high on myself when I am not in that place.

All of this transforms the desert from an awful place to just a place. The desert becomes a place of grace and transformation, one that deepens and strengthens me and one that comes and goes just as the seasons come and go.

Thanks be to God for Christ and his love.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

God's Best

The other day I was talking with a mentor of mine and he used the phrase "God's best". He was specifically saying that a choice he made was fine but didn't feel like God's best. I had never really heard the term but I am coming to really like it. For me it is not a term of condemnation but a recognition that there is a better way.

So often we don't have the clarity or the courage to admit that something we are doing may not be "God's best" for us. It doesn't mean that we are sinning, it means that there may be a better way. For me there is a real freedom to seeing a better way, grounded in God's grace.

I wish that more people would have this sense of God's best in the world and in our lives. We need to learn to live in the tension even though we don't want to live in the tension. We want what we want now and we want whatever we are doing to be okay. The modern folk religion is that everything is okay as long as nobody is hurt. This dumbs us down and lowers the expectations when in many cases they should be raised.

There is often a better way and God calls us into this better way. Our belovedness is not dependent on living that better way but as God's beloved he desires for us to have life in its fullness, in other words "His best".

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Divine Branding

There is a time when the fire of Divine Love, that is Christ's Love brands our hearts. It leaves an indelible mark on our soul, like a brand or tattoo. We are never the same after it, the experience lingers in our soul's memory and sets a course or direction for our lives. We can try to ignore our branding, if it is minor or so we think. We can cover it up with business, good intentions, fun activities.

It will always be there and we should not fear the place it is calling us to. For it is not the mark calling us, it is Christ calling us deeper into his presence which is another way of saying deep into his love. For his love and his presence are bound, one can't be in his presence without being loved. Again, we can ignore love and that may lead to suffering in the lover but it doesn't change the love. Christ always calls into deepening our sense of belovedness, deeper and deeper still until we can't exist without our heart beating to the rhythm of his love for us.

Spiritual practice deepens our sense of belovedness, in Jim Smith's words it changes our God story and put new narratives in place. When we learn to live from those new narratives it means that our character has changed, it is more in line with Christ's. We receive greater freedom and our bondage is released.

Some thoughts

I've been listening to Therese of Avila's Interior Castle (it is a masterful work on prayer). One of the things that struck me was how easily she moves into prayer. She will be discussing a particular issue and then a few sentences later she is praising Christ or imploring him to make us experience what she is writing about.

This helps me understand how saturated she was in the Divine Life. She had our Lord constantly in mind and was aware of his presence in all things and had this deep and profound desire to please and serve him. It reminds me of Paul's letters where he calls himself slave of Christ. She calls Jesus, His Majesty.

She also lifts up the many ways we can grow slack in our prayer and let the Evil One distract us and keep us from growing deeper or, in her language, going into the next mansion. I know that it is easy to move away from our center and calling. There are so many good things to get distracted with. I find her insistence on prayer as primary in life to be so helpful.