Posts Tagged ‘Sabbath’

as the world gives…

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.” – John 14:27

A large part of the world is built and continually dependent on the lack of peace.  Advertisers know that in order to sell a product or service, they often must first convince you of your deficiency without their offer.  News sources know they must convince you of inherent anxiety that you can not shed without hearing the story they’re about to share (after these messages).  Our economy and daily connection to what’s happening in the world threatens to be shaped by these forces on a regular basis.img_1760

Into that kind of existence, we receive the words from Jesus again:

“I’m giving you peace…and I know the world offers you peace also.  The world offers you peace if you buy their product.  The world offers you peace if you utilize their services.  The world offers you an equation by which if you do “A”, they’ll accomplish “B”, and the outcome will be “C” (A + B = C).  But even if you attain “C” in this world, it is a peace that continues to allow disturbance so that you will continue to purchase the product, utilize the service, and listen to their voice of influence.

In fact, I want you to take an entire day off every week.  You don’t have to, but I invite you to gladly because it will shape your soul.  One day out of every 7, step out of the routines and paces of this world to declare and remember your freedom from them.  My peace and freedom are not an equation.  They are not dependent on any conditions of this world.  They are a gift that is continually poured out by the Holy Spirit – your advocate sent by my Father to remind you of all these things.”

May we respond to His invitation to Sabbath this week in ways that free us to be people of peace during the other 6 days as well…

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On a Changed Mind…

In reading Bob Goff’s “Love Does” to our children recently, I was reminded of his words urging us not to be “Stalkers” of Jesus. He points out that we often spend so much time personally, and even in our gatherings studying about Jesus/Holy Spirit/God.  But how often are we focused on simply “being with” this Triune God?  As a pastor, as a father, and especially as one who recognizes the power of God’s Love – I want to consciously spend time, and invite others into times, of being increasingly aware of the fullness of God’s Love & presence.

Recently there was a book published that contains an amazing amount of scientists, researchers, and history of people all wanting to do something similar.  The main title is “How to Change Your Mind”, and a conversation with the author on NPR caught my attention.  As someone who’s studied biblical Greek, I remembered that Jesus often called people to “repent” using the word “metanoia” which literally means “having a changed mind”.  The unpopularity of this book in Christian circles might be caused by its subtitle, “What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence”.  The awkwardness of my preconceptions of psychedelics pushed-aside, I went ahead and read it anyways.

Wow.  The history of these substances and the opportunities for research beginning to resurface has a great deal to offer the brokenness of humanity.  Researchers are just in the past 8 years, finally and slowly/clinically, beginning to proceed cautiously again.  There are potentials in treating addictions, anxiety/depression, PTSD, and a great many of maladies in between.  Unfortunately, many of these substances were misused/abused in unsafe ways/levels back around the ’60s, and so most of us have a cloudy understanding of all these things.

But most interesting to me were the accounts of the early scientists/philosophers/divinity students who experienced these substances simply as a way to experience an “altered state of consciousness”.  Complete skeptics who viewed everything through a scientific lens came away skeptical of their own need to understand only that which is understandable.  Religious people came away feeling as if they’d “finally” had an experience of the divine.  There were so many great connections to those of us who are willing to see it, and I cannot process everything or share all the great quotes here.  But one thing in particular screams to be noticed:

What is striking about this whole line of clinical research is the premise that it is not the pharmacological effect of the drug itself but the kind of mental experience it occasions – involving the temporary dissolution of one’s ego – that may be the key to changing one’s mind.” Michael Pollan, How to Change Your Mind

It doesn’t take a Bible scholar to see the connection here.  Pick a verse! Look at Ephesians 4:22-24 if you need one.  Scripture talks about “dying to self” in order to come alive with the New Life of Jesus Christ over and over again.  Followers of Jesus since ancient times have wrestled with and expanded on what all of this involves.

What happens in story after story throughout Pollan’s book (the “good” trips at least) are individuals who carve out time and space purposefully for an “otherly” experience.  They are talked to by a “guide” who comforts them, and reassures them of their presence.  They close their eyes, turn on some music, and are guided verbally while the substance takes its effect.  Once you shed some of the hallucinatory aspects, what often leads to transformation/healing in the individual is coming away from such an experience aware that an “other” way of existing is out there.  An immediate realization of a unity that flows through all of creation, and the beauty of color, sound, etc.

One of the things that commends travel, art, nature, work, and certain drugs to us is the way these experiences, at their best, block every mental path forward and back, immersing us in the flow of a present that is literally wonderful – wonder being the by-product of precisely the kind of unencumbered first sight…”  Michael Pollan, How to Change Your Mind

This is not too far off from experiences we’ve heard of happening in worship.  This is not too removed from experiences of “guided prayer” even I have helped lead others into/out from.   It reminded me of another book I’d read recently, “Merton’s Palace of Nowhere“.  Merton has written extensively on prayer, on dying to the “false self”, and on meditation.  He was even around during many of these early “trials” in the 60’s, so I wondered his perspective of these things.  In a letter from December 1965, he writes:

“..my impression is that they are probably not all they are cracked up to be.  Theologically I suspect that the trouble with psychedelics is that we want to have interior experiences entirely on our own terms.  This introduces an element of constraint and makes the freedom of pure grace impossible.  Hence, religiously, I would say their value was pretty low.  However, regarded merely psychologically, I am sure they have considerable interest.” Thomas Merton, The Hidden Ground of Love

I find myself agreeing with Merton.  The grace of God that arrives in our moments/lives of sacrifice and other-centered Love is not something we can carefully plan for/measure.  They should not be contained in a moment or require the assistance of substances.  Even the neuro-chemical responses of emotional worship experiences can be addictive in ways that make us desire more of those moments on terms we can manufacture.

Only when we are able to ‘let go’ of everything within us, all desire to see, to know, to taste, and to experience the presence of God, do we truly become able to experience that presence with the overwhelming conviction and reality that revolutionize our entire inner life.” James Finley, Merton’s Palace of Nowhere

It’s not as simple as saying “Drugs are bad, mmkay?”  But it is as simple as saying an authentic and sustainable experience of God that transforms and brings New Life is possible for anyone, anywhere, at any time.  We live within a creation that proclaims the awe-inducing beauty and goodness of God,.  We are surrounded by a fellow humanity that was created to bear the image of the Divine.  God is not so far away as we often imagine.  The divine invitation to repent, to “metanoia” (have a changed mind) is something we do not seek to control, but submit ourselves to by pausing.  We offer ourselves in unceasing and moments of prayer, and a life with patterns of Sabbath.

To put it another way, we “come away/apart” or “retreat” to a solitary place as Jesus did, but also in moments joined together in relationship with others.  We prayerfully and vulnerably confess our false selves and seek to live in ways that shed/deny that self for the sake of others.  In living with these patterns, embracing people and moments with the precious validity of what could be (rather than what we assume will be), we position ourselves to receive the grace of a God-given Now.

On a closing note, I do believe these substances are able to “force individuals” into an awareness of the Divine (though not always).  However, we don’t need a substance in order to reveal to us different ways of perceiving this world exist.  What Jesus invites us to recognize is the power of compassion to accomplish even more.  Compassion means literally “to suffer with”.  When I choose to enter into the sufferings of another (person, people group, etc.), my vantage point enters into their own.  When this happens, we experience a “metanoia” that empowered by the Holy Spirit can lead to freedom from the chains we’d previously been bound by.  From a Christian perspective – when I “die to self” to come alive as Christ, I enter into a Holy Spirit-sourced compassionate life for those whom Jesus Loves (everyone…yes, even/especially them).  Such a life is the arrival of New Creation, where former things (false self) have passed away and all things have become New.  Not once, and not in a moment, but as a way of Life.

But beware.  As anyone who’s traveled to a foreign country can affirm, a daily existence where everything is “New” can be incredibly exhausting both cognitively and physically.  We may find ourselves depending on the power of God and needing to return to His presence…often…

…the Good News is, He is here.

 

 

Puppets & Jellyfish

Last week I sat down to watch “Galaxy Buck: Mission to Sector 9″ with my kids, and I was kinda blown away. Here, condensed into a 40 minute children’s puppet movie (with quite a bit of humor), was a potent message. Not just a good message. I mean – take all the current spiritual living, devotional, God/Christ-centered literature that has come out in recent years – this movie will summarize a large percentage of it.galaxybuck

(spoiler alert)

Buck works in a call center for a large ministry, and is discontent because the poster on his wall constantly reminds him “God wants you to do BIG things!” He feels like he’s not accomplishing what God wants, and gets excited when there seems to be a chance. Things go awry, and he finds himself bummed again. Then, in the subterranean levels of an alien planet, he meets someone who rips his goal apart. Literally. He takes Bucks’ poster, and rips it so that the words left read, “God wants you.” I asked my 10-year-old daughter the next day what the message of the movie was about, and she answered clearly the same thing: “God doesn’t want you to do big things, as much as God wants YOU. You’re not a shark, you’re a jellyfish caught in the flow of God’s Love.”

The obvious push-back to that is: “That sounds like an excuse for laziness, and not trying anything.” Certainly it could be manipulated into that. But when we allow ourselves to exist fully in the flow of God’s Love – we have to trust that WILL call us to be actively offering ourselves fully toward the mission of lives, community and creation transformed.  But our activity doesn’t begin with us setting a goal of “accomplishing great things for Jesus”.  It begins with us relinquishing control of everything in our being, into the great Love of God.  That may mean we accomplish great things by the measures of this world, or that mean we lose everything and all noteriety for His sake.

The first step?  Allowing the truth of that ripped poster to sink in.  “God wants YOU.”  Not because of your gifts or talents.  Not because of your heritage.  Not because you’re specifically poised to accomplish what no one else could ever do.  Not because of your purity.  But because He Loves you.  Fully and completely, and without reserve.  Just as much when you were making horrible decisions as He does today.  Most of us have been loved wrong by a human in our lives, and it messes up the kind of love we even see as possible.  So let the love of God sink in a bit, and then release yourself to it.  There is no greater place to exist, or calling to walk forward with…

For more on covenanting with God to do/be whatever He wants, check out this modern version of the “John Wesley Covenant Service” I’ve written for use in a church setting.

For a few words on God simply desiring/loving you as His child, here’s a Spoken Word I recently recorded.

Because I was forced to spend time in quiet…

There is quiet.FullSizeRender

It’s not far, but it’s often a world away.
Today, I’ll say there’s no way it could be near. It couldn’t be here.
Because here is noise, busy, and hurry. Here’s worry. The scene is blurry,
And clarity? The lens hasn’t been cleaned for a while. You smile,
Holding tight the commitment you’ve made for tonight.
“I’m doing alright.”

And so are we all, but as Fall turns to Winter you realize,
There might be lies in the Truth. The Truth lies bare when given a moment to spare.
And there, in slow breathing and heart beating, you find it.

There is quiet.

Leaves have turned, and are falling. The silence is calling
For those willing to press pause on the pace, and face a world less moving.
Less proving, and more being. More seeing. Freeing you from shackles unfelt.
Moments melt into Sabbath. You catch your breath. There is life. There is death.

There is quiet.

Breathing deep, drenched in nothing.
Absence that feels like more substance than you’ve had in a while.
You smile, remembering what it’s like to wander.
In body and thought, you’re caught up in wonder, staring at the clouds
As if they contain a story you’re anxious to hear.
You stumble, lost in your surroundings,
A leaf-covered path, the aftermath of Autumn.
Emerging to a lake, you take it all in with a grin
And begin to lose yourself in the wealth found in the surface
Of water undisturbed.

There is quiet.

Heavens reflected in smooth glass
Trees stretching deep down into the sky
Fooling the eye, you sigh.
This is why

There is quiet.

You can’t stay in this place
But you scoop up the pace, and put some in your pocket.
Commit to remember, as you head into November

That there. Is. Quiet.

a reminder.

I could list reasons.  I could research, and post links to articles about the impact of nature on the human brain.  The dangers of living at the pace our world runs.  The need to reduce “screen time”.  The need to retreat from the noises of city.  The need to be reminded of natural beauty, over the manufactured beauty we’re sold daily.  Instead, I just want to whet your appetite, and remind you that your family needs some of this.  Ours did too.  This all took place in less than 24 hours, for less than 50 bucks.  Worth it.

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screen time.

“when you have 1-year-olds playing Angry Birds and toddlers trying to swipe the TV screen because they think it’s an iPad … it’s a changing nature of childhood.” – Jim Steyer

An interesting study recently came out from “Common Sense Media”, on Childrens’ Media Use in American 2013.  There are some interesting findings throughout the study, although something very important to note is that the entire study is based on the parents’ response alone.  Imagine yourself as a young parent, who’s had a particularly rough week and may have stuck your kids in front of a tv screen way more than you intended; getting a survey from “Common Sense Media” asking you questions about your parenting techniques.  Of course you won’t confess to babysitting your kids with a television/iDevice.  In fact, the statistics will probably come out looking like this:timespentwithmedia

Now maybe it’s true that the average family can watch an entire DVD in 22 minutes, or that on average, families maximize a movie’s value/experience by dragging it out over several days.  But it seems like the information in this chart might be presented in a better way somehow.  It’s also possible that I’m just not very good at understanding charts of information.  But this next one is pretty easy to grasp.

What are the statistics of children aged 0-8 who have a television in their bedroom?  I figured the response here would be pretty low.  After all, most parents of kids aged 0-8 are my age, and had parents themselves who understood just how bad TV was for your eyesight alone, nevermind it’s ability to hypnotize you.  The results were surprising:tvinbedroom

The main reason?  “Frees up other TV’s so family members can watch their own shows.”

Wow.  I can understand the desire.  Some nights we enjoy a show that we don’t turn on until after the kids are in bed.  Even the popular “Once Upon a Time”, filled with princesses and knights….is quite a bit more than we want them viewing at this point.  Definitely, there are some nights where after bedtime prayer/story, we’re just too worn out to enjoy a show.  It’d be easier to start our show at 6pm, and let the kids enjoy their own show in their room.  But we feel like there are enough things/activities in our life already that make it hard to stay connected.  We don’t need to add something else.

The problem seems like it might be the denial that making choices like this even has any impact on the time a family spends together:

impactofmediaonfamilytime  Wait a minute.  A huge percentage of children under age 8 have televisions in their bedroom, and a large reason for it is so that the adults can watch their own shows….but 70% of parents think media either has no impact, or helps their family spend time together??

We didn’t even spend time above talking about tablets, iPods, smart phones, etc…even though these are all included in this charts view of “media”.

In the midst of all of this, God is calling followers of Christ to continue being people who know how to Sabbath.  To continue being people who understand the difference between creative entertainment, and idols.  To bear the fruit of the Spirit that includes “self-control”, for the sake of our families, and for the sake of bearing the image of God in a world that forgets His Face.  So what does that need to look like in your home?  Is this an “aha” moment where God leads you to new decisions?  Is this a “well done” to your home that handles the pressures of media well?

So what are some “policies” or “Family Rules” that you have in your home that help guide toward a healthy approach and relationship with each other and with media?

say the (specific) words.

“The word ‘Love’, well it was once overused.  Back in the 70’s the word was abused. But I refuse to let love be diluted.  We can’t allow physical lust to intrude it.  Or pollute it cause their ain’t no excuse for the greatest gift of all to be abused.  So choose to lost the pride that may tug at you, don’t be afraid of the words ‘I love you’.”
– “Say the Words” by DC TALK

And so my teenage philosophy of being okay with the words “I love you” was formed.  Unfortunately, as with many young boys, I found it particularly effective in getting the attention of the opposite gender.  So many young people are afraid of “committing” to such a phrase, that for me to use it was effective in the few girls I was able to get the attention of growing up.  Until I met a woman who finally began to not be content with my version of love, but to teach me more about it.

As my wife and I dated, we’d have those sappy moments that young couples have.   We’d look deep into each others’ eyes over an well plated and overpriced en-tree (more realistically, over a plate of Strawberry Shortcake at Steak & Shake). Sometimes I wouldn’t know what to say that communicated my emotions well.  So I’d often opt for the old reliable…”I love you.”

This worked like magic the first few times, sure.  But then she did it.  She thwarted my plan for lifelong relational bliss forever.  She poked holes in my kite, and offered me a sailboat instead.  She did it all with a simple one-word question:

“Why?”sisters

She wasn’t asking a self-deprecating question about how I could possibly have feelings for her.   She knew I loved her.  She knew I cared for her.  But she wanted our relationship to plunge beneath the surface of Hallmark cards and Disney movies.  What was it about her that, in that moment particularly, compelled me to voice my emotions?

Fast forward 14 years, to me wanting to love and bless my children, and  I’m so grateful for a wife who took the time and difficult conversations to teach me about love.   To teach me how to be a better father.  As I held my daughter this past Sunday afternoon, I began simply by hugging her close and saying, “I love you, Ruby.”  But the question of “Why?” was still echoing through the halls of my heart.  So I began a list… “I love when you hug me.  I love when you share your smiles.  I love when you pray for Phoebe.  I love when you do silly dances.  I love how big your heart is.  I love when you do somersaults.  I love to hear you make up songs……”

I wasn’t even done listing why I loved her, when my 4 year old began to snore on my chest.  She was still lightly rubbing my face with her hand.  I pulled the blanket over her shoulders, and took a deep satisfied breath.  This parenting thing is pretty spectacular.

Maybe it’s your spouse.  Maybe it’s your child.  Whoever it might be, there’s a big chance that someone you love could realllllly use a reminder of “Why” you love them.  Not because they question it, but because they long for a Love that dives deep into meaningful emotions in a world that confuses the definition of love on a regular basis.   Who will you love today?

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