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Showing posts from May, 2019

Success take Three

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As we have been prayerfully pondering our own understandings of success...what is roaming and rummaging around my mind is a wonderful prayer by Thomas Merton.

My Lord God,
I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you
does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though
I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

I, especially, love that second line... "I have no idea where I am going"...

Yup.  That seems like a daily truth for me.

I do…

Success take Two

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Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:7-8

We have been letting the question, what is success, stir and swirl and sit within us.

I pray there have been moments of honesty...heartfelt shining of a light on your life. 

I pray there has been a gentleness not to get caught in the dualistic thinking of either/or.  For example, either pursuing a degree is absolutely right or wrong!!

Again, I am grateful for my education...the experiences...the moments that formed and fashioned me.  And I also realize there is more than book knowledge and arranging my mental furniture or passing a test that matter in this world.

Both/And.

I love this third chapter of Paul's letter to the Philippians.  A quick note here: any of …

Success

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 Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.  More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain -Christ  Philippians 3:7-8

It is graduation season...which means there is a fresh crop of well-meaning, advice-giving, platitude offering speechifying going on right now.  It means that people are trying to both congratulate and motivate...and having sat there in a rented gown a couple of times...I not sure I remember most of what people were trying to impart to me.  Perhaps that was because often it is so warm in those graduation gowns...you fan yourself with your program, maybe the air current causes the words to go in one ear and out the other.  Or maybe by that point, it is such a bittersweet moment.  On the one hand, you worked hard for that piece of paper you are about to get...on the…

Eight Hundred posts celebration

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So this week, I went over the 800 mark of posts. 

It feels significant.  Although, I really thought when I reached this milestone there would be fireworks or cheering or at least someone doing a kazoo solo.

When I started this blog over six years ago...it was a way to get ideas out there into the universe.  I've always wanted to publish a book...and this offered me an opportunity (a prayer practice as I described in the last post) to share with others. 

This summer I will be working on that book that has been patiently/persistently waiting.  I've read enough and heard enough published author's speak that I know the journey will not be easy.  It will take longer than the 10 weeks I have and will extend into the fall...perhaps even winter...maybe more.  I have no guarantee that it will be published.

Except...

I can publish it here.

Starting in late June I will share some of my early drafts.  They will probably be so rough (like sandpaper) you could smooth any splinter on a …

Music of our Hearts

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Waves move in patterns. Patterns move in rhythms. A human being is just that, energy, waves, patterns, rhythms. Nothing more. Nothing less. A dance. —Gabrielle Roth

If you hold your Bible close to your ear, you can actually hear a sacred soundtrack pouring forth.

Miriam picks up a tambourine on the other side of the Red Sea and breaks into sacred song and dance about our liberating love of God.

Joshua leads a marching band around the outskirts of Jericho with trumpets blaring and blasting to cause the walls to come a tumbling down.

David played what we think was a lyre and it would soothe the troubled soul of Saul.

Mary pregnant with the possibility of being the God-bearer lets loose with a solo worthy of any singing competition on television today sending shivers and goosebumps down our arms.

Our Bible is less some history book and more of a Broadway musical.  There are sound vibration that resonate and reverberate from every book of the Bible.  And those hymns invite us into the hol…

Surprised by Joy

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I am walking out to my car the other day, when this jacaranda tree caught my attention.  I was taken by the brilliant, bright orange...as if the tree was crying out, "Look at me!  Look at me."  I know this photo doesn't do justice to the beauty on full display.  Here is a close up of one of the branches.


I am still not sure that the vibrant-ness of that tree was captured and how captivated I was by its glory. 
We need moments in our life that stop us in our tracks. We need moments when we are surprised by joy.
But so often in the blur and busyness of life...we can race and run past.
When I took this picture I was heading from one appointment to another.  I could have said, "Oh how pretty," with just a passing, cursory glance...letting the moment breeze by.  
Yet, I decided to stop and take a couple of photos of this tree, I believe, in full prayer to God.  
What is that you say, "Tree don't pray?"  Tell that to this jacaranda tree, if you dare.  

The Frame

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Putting a frame around life can be a great way to focus our attention.  So much of what we encounter every second of every day is overflowing with messages and meaning...our brains are on over load.  In a second moment I step outside, I can put a frame around so many things.

While it focuses...it also limits ~ feel free to go back and read the post on Monday about paradoxes.  Don't worry...I'll wait.

Frames can limit because something is being excluded...not part of the picture.

Yet, you and I have to do this all the time.

I frame my sermons...editing out certain ideas that in the first drafts seemed so insightful and now seem to not be as amazing as I thought.

I frame my day...there is only so many hours and some things I simply cannot do.

I frame when I am out on a walk with my wife.  She will notice something on the sidewalk or in the sky she has put a frame around that I have totally missed...and sometimes can't even see when I do try to put a frame around it.

Frames …

Velcro and Teflon

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Recently I was reading a blog post by Rick Hanson (click here to read) who was describing the negativity bias that seems to be baked and built into our brains...I guess to make life more interesting??

Basically the hard wiring in our minds is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones.  This is great when we are in survival mode.  We want to remember what we heard/smell/ saw and felt right before we encountered that bear a few days ago.  We want to learn from the time we got too close to the fire.  We need to hold onto what we said that hurt another person's feelings. 

But why do we let go of the positive experiences so quickly? 

Maybe there just isn't enough storage space.
Maybe we think that we don't always deserve the positive moments - haven't earned them - although, we will probably never feel like we've earned them.
Maybe you were raised by parents like mine who wanted to make sure I didn't boast or brag too much...because, "…

The Paradox of Faith

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The other day, I am at a restaurant enjoying lunch with some friends.  On the table is the above vase of flowers. 

Okay...it wasn't a vase...it was a plastic cup, because I eat at only the classiest places ~ as I am sure you can tell from the state of the wooden table on which the vase - I am plastic cup - sat upon.

Okay...maybe calling them "flowers" is a bit of a stretch.  This particular species of God's creation seems to occupy that place somewhere between a dandelion and a mum.  It sort of looks like the kind of flower your four-year-old would bring home clinched so tightly in her hand that some of the flowers start to wilt and droop under the pressure.

Which is actually what the above flowers were doing.  Some looked as healthy as healthy could be... others a bit tired, hanging it's flower-head like it was studying the wooden table.

Yup...been there...had that kind of day.  The kind of day when there are moments of joy and times I just feel a bit deflated …

Encountering Joy ~~ take three

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Recently I heard Atul Gawande author of the book, Being Mortal, talk about one of the most important questions:

What would be the most perfect day for you?

This is a great question for each of us to answer...first on our own.  Step one: try to silence all the "shoulds" and "have tos" in your mind.  We let a lot of voices ~ other than our own ~ define and describe what joy is.  If you don't want to travel...then let go of leaving your home as a source of joy.  If you would prefer to be alone...don't pack or plan a day with family or friends.  The important words in that question are, "for you".  Not for your spouse...children...friends...others.  You.  What brings you joy is what brings you joy.  This isn't a mathematical formula or some element on the periodic table that has to be consistent across all time/space.  You get to be you.

What is that perfect day for you?

Second...let go of the guilt we can have that we would put ourselves first. …

Encountering Joy ~ take two

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“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” ― Mark Twain

How are you doing staying awake and aware of the joy swirling in your life?  Do you sense that you are spotting or sensing it a bit more?  Or did you read the last post...and prompting think, "I am not sure I can do this whole 'joy' thing in the world today...thanks but no thanks!"?

Part of the reason why I think we struggle with joy is because of our isolation and individualism in the world today.

Yes, I know we are more connected than ever.  The fact that I can share these words over the fiber optic lines of the web...the face that social media drives so much of our national conversation...the fact that we count our "Friends" in the hundreds or thousands ~ many of whom we never see face-to-face tells us that.

But usually, when I encounter other's joys on-line, it can awaken that compare and compete part of my reptilian brain.  I can think, "Wait, she got a new c…

Encountering Joy

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“Shut your mouth; open your eyes and ears. Take in what is there and give no thought to what might have been there or what is somewhere else. That can come later, if it must come at all." C.S. Lewis Surprised by Joy
What was the most joyful moment of your life?  
Maybe it was graduation...wedding...birth of children...job...vacation?
Maybe it was a time you felt at peace and content.
Maybe it was this moment right now, because this moment is bursting and breaking with so much ~ most of which we don't see/sense/hear/comprehend.
Maybe you are a bit flummoxed by the question, because the hard wiring in your brain wasn't configured to seek out joy.  After all, no one pulled me aside in school and taught me how to stay open to joy.  In fact, growing up I was taught joy was to be delayed and even diminished.  You had to have all your chores done because joy could come knocking on my door ~ usually in the form of going to play kickball with my friends.  And if that is the opera…

Endings and Beginnings

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This week we have danced with the beauty of doubts...and faith...together.  We have explored how those two might influence and impact our discipling in the world.

Now, we reach Matthew's ending...which is really a beginning.

Matthew says, "Go."  Go to all the nations.  Go being a light to the world.  Go and share.

And if we wonder what to share...remember the setting is teaching and telling us that.  Jesus and the disciples are on a mountain...which is where Jesus preached his first sermon.

What do we share?  We share the Sermon on the Mount.
How do we disciple?  We let the words and wisdom of Matthew 5-7 continue to be what inspires our lives ~ not that we have it all figured out ~ that is where the doubt and faith dancing together is so important.

We return to the wisdom from the hill of the sermon on the mount.  The beatitudes of faith to go to the fringe and fray as a place where God hangs out.  The invitation to be light and salt for the world.  The call to love ou…

Endings and Beginnings

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Half way through the week...

Where are doubts/curiosities dancing in this Easter season?
Where does faith start to soar and sail like a boat on a windy day across the sea?

Where do you feel stuck/stymied?
Where do you feel like the Spirit is up to something brand new in your life?

The disciples encountering Jesus on the mountain ~ worshiped and doubted.  It isn't as though we have to classify which of the eleven were in each camp.  We don't have to identify who sang out, "Christ the Lord is Risen today."  And which disciples said, "Whose the dude in the Jesus mask?"  Rather that verse can faithfully be translated, "They all worshiped and all doubted."  The two were mixed together inside each disciple.  The two were a powerful concoction.  Because...as Buechner said, "Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith." 

And to be clear, Jesus doesn't seem to even notice that there was some doubt or disbelief in the disciples.  He doesn't…