The Solace of Solitude…

Modern life grates.

Constant commotion

 Noise.

The scraping motions of connection.

The soul seeks relief.

A moment of peace & quiet.

The Solace of Solitude.

In the midst of Frenzy,

Quietness

Within

Stillness

Clear enough to hear…

A still small voice.

On Simplicity…

We’ve all had the experience of over-eating and suffering a tummy ache as a result.   When the feast before our eyes overwhelms our better judgement, it’s easy to turn off the natural sensors which tell us that we’ve had enough.

But we pay for it long after the tickling sensations which enticed our taste buds have been satiated.  It is during these moments of miserable regret that we ache for simple things.   The simplicity of being able to eat without pangs of pain and digest without regurgitation.

Excess is not limited to the arena of food, it’s become a large staple of modern western life.   Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been studying the discipline of Spiritual Simplicity.   The movement towards a life grounded in integrity and truthfulness…

The challenge of Simplicity is simply this…we love our excess; even when we know it is not good for us.  The mega movement in Christianity today has produced the fastest growing, largest  churches in the history of America.

But what is the result of the excess?  How has excessive growth in the physical dimension impacted the transformation of our culture?  And to what degree is simplicity merely another form of outward process which creates a false legalism that shields our conscience from the areas that really matter?

In some ways, I think simplicity is complex…it’s far more nuanced than the wider path which seems so tempting in an arena of abundance. I think that  Simplicity is calling to an inner state of being…not merely a thing to do.

It’s a shedding, stripping and pruning which opens up the cluttered regions of a stuffed up existence so we can breathe and enjoy life fully and abundantly once again.  But it will not necessarily come easily…something as solid as simplicity requires a dedication of commitment and focus.  In other words a singleness of mind & body which we instinctively crave but often ignore.

Picture is courtesy of madelinetosh on flickr.com

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The Art of Meditation…

12171_RAIN DROPSWhat do you know about meditation?  The response to my question was largely blank stares from the folks in the class this Sunday.  This was not really surprising as to most modern day Christians, the practice of meditation is a lost discipline or worse…one associated with traditions which are not aligned with the Christian faith.

But, the truth is that the Bible speaks about mediation; there are over 20 specific references.   One of the first references is about Isaac meditating just prior to his first encounter with his future wife Rebecca.  In the book of Joshua 1:8, God tells the Israelites to meditate on on His Word during the day and night so they will be careful to obey it.   David starts the book of Psalms and in verse 2 refers to the blessings of meditating on the law of God.  In fact, David speaks about mediation several times.

We all meditate.  Meditation is simply the process of contemplation and deep reflection.  The question is WHAT are we meditating on…what’s the focus of our meditation.  For many of us, the focus of our deep and on-going reflection is the stuff we worry about.  We fret about the issues of our lives…what we will eat, what we will wear, what will happen tomorrow.  Jesus had something to say about this type of meditation…Don’t do it!

Instead, the Bible instructs us to mediate on the Word of God and to reflect on His goodness.  There are many ways in which we can incorporate the practice of meditation into our daily devotional life.  Meditation as a discipline can supercharge your prayer life by helping you to still your mind so that you can focus more completely on God and attach yourself to His truth and the guidance of His Word.

For the modern day Christian, one of the most attractive benefits of mediation is the guidance that seems to bubble up within us when our minds are stilled from the ceaseless, abstract relentless stream of thought that consumes our lives.  Through meditation we learn the true meaning of ‘being still and knowing God’.  In the stillness there comes guidance for the issues which affect our lives.  In this sense, Christian meditation is a way for us to download divine instructions for the everyday challenges we face and to gain insights which are not readily discernible in the hectic pace of everyday life.

Wikepedia reference on Christian Meditation

Christian Meditation…is it really Christian?

Why Giving Up is Not an Option…

The strength of a flower which perfumes the hand which crushes itTwo champions, each a heavy weight legend in their own right faced off in the ring again.  It seemed like a lifetime ago that the world watched the intense spectacle of one man being so enraged at his eminent defeat that he bit into not one, but two ears of his opponent.

The stage this week, was the Oprah Winfrey show where Mike Tyson had bared his soul in an earlier interview about the mistakes and triumphs of his life & explained as best he could, what was going on in his mind during that fight.  His honesty was profoundly captivating.

As Evander Holyfield walked onto the stage, it seemed that the intervening years had been somewhat kinder to him than the tortured existence that Mike Tyson had experienced.  We all held our breath just a little…what would they do.  Afterall, it’s not everyday that one meets on a public forum, the person who undermines the integrity of a harsh and violent sport by literally sinking his teeth into your skin.

It’s easy to watch a show by merely skimming the surface.  But, in some ways, the experience of these fighters is almost impossible for most of us to begin to comprehend.

However,  we can all understand what it means to get up and keep on fighting even after you’re down for the count.  And that’s why on a primal level, many can relate to the sport of boxing.  All of us have experienced a knock-down in life.   Some of us may be there right now.  It’s not easy and never pretty.

But it’s what you do next that matters.  When Tyson recognized that he was not going to win, he struck out and bit his opponent.  His rage blinded him and demeaned his prior accomplishments and then spiraled out of control on a journey that descended into the hell of drugs and prison.

But that crazed individual was not the one on the stage of the show.  Tyson demonstrated that none of us has to stay down, we can choose to get up, own our mistakes, apologize and strive to do better.  Several times during the interview, he choked up with emotion and Oprah captured the intensity of his yearning with a question…”Can you feel the love directed towards you right now?”

It was obviously hard for Tyson to really acknowledge how powerful and affecting this new round in his life is proving to be.  And his journey has lessons for all of us.  None of us gets to exit life without failure.  We will all participate in things we are not proud of.  That’s simply the essential nature of sin.

However, we can choose to get up and keep on going.  And we may be surprised like Tyson was to find out that support may come to us from unexpected places as we humble ourselves and admit to a cry for assistance.

*

Love Lessons @ The School of Hard Knocks…

“Love is Not Proud

Resumés are interesting.  I’m not a HR professional, but I’ve had the experience of sifting through resumes trying to find an appropriate hire.  Sometimes, it feels like cracking a mystery code.

Looking at the nicely typed sheet of paper (or more commonly these days, e-mail),  it’s a challenge to discern what really motivates an individual.  Why did they apply for the job?  What sort of contribution will they be able to make?  Are they telling the truth?

Sometimes, it’s what a resume doesn’t say which is most valuable.  For instance, if there are gaps in the job history or sketchy details, examining these items more closely can yield valuable insight.

One of the most famous resumes in the world is found in the ancient book of Philippians 3: 1-9.  It’s the resume of Paul the Apostle.  Here Paul describes some of his proudest life accomplishments…circumcised on the 8th day, a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee, as for zeal, persecuting the church.  Whoa…How does one start as a Hebrew of Hebrews and then end up actively pursuing innocent people to put them in prison or kill them in the name of God?

Our weekly study on 1 Corinthians 13, the Love Chapter focuses our attention on the nature of Pride & Arrogance.  Here’s a question.  Is Pride always ugly? Can we instantly recognize the hazard for what it is?  And when we become depraved, when does the slide down towards hellish elements of our human nature start?

Can this downward descent within our moral/spiritual sensibility occur even while we are completely unaware…thinking that things are actually doing pretty good,  patting ourselves on the back for our accomplishments, pedigree, education, talents etc; not recognizing how indebted we are to the grace of God and to the contributions of others.  Becoming numbly blind to the remarkable coincidences and opportunities that we have been given?  And, perhaps more importantly, now knowing how close we stand on the precipice of a certain type of destruction?

Paul ( who was previously known as Saul)  had to be knocked of his high horse (literally) and blinded for 3 days before he became fully aware of far his heart had strayed and how craven his base instincts had become.  (Acts 9:3-17)

At the end of this experience with a revelation of the risen Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostle now enlightened by the presence of the Holy Spirit has a very different view of his lofty resume…he counts all the “stuff” as dung.

But gaining that perspective was a process aided by humility; one of the greatest lessons learned in the School of Hard Knocks.  And as Paul describes it in Philippians, these lessons changed how he judged the process of accomplishment.

Instead of aiming for glory, Paul emerged wanting to understand what is was to suffer the process of refinement to such a degree that it resulted in a Resurrection.  A new life freed from the petty boundaries which hinder so much of what God truly desires for us to become.

Love…In Defense of Itself or not.

first-spring-blushI’ve been thinking about tomorrow’s lesson. It’s been a couple of weeks since our last meeting as a group.

This week’s lesson is supposed to be about jealousy. We’re starting to delve more deeply into what love is NOT…

It strikes me that there is a central theme inherent in how 1 Corinthians describes what love is not. And it can be summed up in 3 letters. Ego.

Love is not about…

 

deflating another’s accomplishments or traits to enhance my own = envy

wanting what belongs to another = jealousy

puffing myself up to feel better = boasting

thinking myself better than others = pride

looking out only for my own interests = selfishness

All these types of activities fan the flame which guards the throne of our ego. They are a natural aspect of human nature when it operates with it’s baser instincts. At anytime in which these instincts inform our actions, intentions and motives…we are walking somewhere outside the sphere of true love.

One might actually conclude from looking at the list above that the manner in which love defines the defense of self is NOT to defend the egoic self at all. In fact, true love seems to require us to do just the opposite.

But does that mean that love weakens into a mushy sentiment devoid of any timber or fiber? Absolutely not! Infact, love is a strong defense; but in a way which turns ego on it’s head. Do you know the mystery of love’s defense? Have you witnessed the transforming power in your own life?