Archive for February, 2014

speech, silence, action!

February 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Too good not to share…

Most of the discussion of prayer I had ever heard centered on whether God answers prayer and how we can know that he does.  But during the past decade I have come to believe that prayer is not a matter of my calling in an attempt to get God’s attention, but of my finally listening to the call of God, which has been constant, patient, and insistent in my inner being.  In relationship to God, I am not the seeker, the initiator, the one who loves more greatly.  In prayer, as in the whole salvation story unfolded by Scripture, God is reaching out to me, speaking to me, and it is up to me to learn to be polite enough to pay attention.  When I do have something to say to God, I am rendering a response to the divine initiative.  So the questions of whether or not and how God answers prayer now seem to me bogus questions.  God speaks, all right.  The big question is do I answer, do I respond, to an invitation that is always open.

prayer-groupI do not mean to imply that I have no use for liturgical and communal prayer, which serves as a concrete enactment of my oneness with the other members of the family of God.  But I know; and I think every honest person knows that communal prayers are sometimes real to my inner experience, and sometimes not, and that difference lies in the kind of internal focus I am able to give to them.  I think that those who attack traditional liturgy, ritual, and communal prayer as meaningless to modern humanity are bogging themselves down in a great muddle.  Religious communal celebrations enact, reinforce, and incarnate the human sense of mortal interrelationship, divine interrelationship, and divine-human interrelationship.

—From Speech, Silence, Action! By Virginia Ramey Mollenkott

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the unglorious colloquy with naked self

February 20, 2014 22 comments

Naked self.  Quite the character, I must say.

I don’t meet with him very often.  I see him almost every day, but most of the time I try to ignore him.  That guy has really changed over the years.

It seems like only yesterday all the hair on his chest was jet black.  And the hundreds of times he’s packed and unpacked his bags for another ministry gig seems to have left permanent bags under his eyes.  The external rearrangements are staggering to say the least.

Not a lot more needs to be said about all of that because the unglorious colloquy with naked self isn’t about personal aesthetics.   Our aesthetics (and our own displeasure of them) is just too easy of a target.  When you consider genetics, gender, and race, there are just some things about how we look that are beyond our control.

Two truths I realized when I turned 50:

(1) Gravity shifts stuff down

(2) We only think we’re in control.

Meet with your naked self often enough and you’ll realize those truths well before your ‘50s.

So dude, you ran a 4.6 40-yard dash in high school?  You still got those kinds of wheels?

Honey, you’re 28 and you’ve nursed three babies?  Things have shifted huh?  As Hindes says, “Shift happens!”

See?  This is what I’m talking about.  Aesthetics are easy and mostly fleeting.  The unglorious colloquy with naked self is about something else.  It’s more . . . penetrating.  Deeper.  Ruthless.  Invasive.

We all have external stuff about us we don’t like or want to change.  Who doesn’t?  Even the most beautiful people on this planet will find something about themselves to pick at.  Pick up any Hollywood tabloid and see for yourself.

Here is what got me thinking about all of this.  Three Sundays ago, I was sitting on the couch enjoying my early morning with Patti.  Hot coffee, comfy sweats, computer in my lap—basically just chillin’ out.  As I turned my head to sneeze, a knifing pain shot through my lower back.  Before I could readjust my position, I sneezed again.  Now a hellacious pain engulfed by lower back.  So much so, I had to fight the urge to throw up.

There was no way to get comfortable.  Standing straight up was impossible.  Laying down on my side was about the least irritating position.  This went on for two weeks!  I was walking around like a very old, hurt man.

I gave patience, ibuprofen, ice, and heat a whirl for about a week.   But after eight long days, I finally called Dr. Gary.  I’m in Texas.  He’s in South Carolina.  I needed his magic and insight.  He helped me locate a chiropractor in Waco, so I made an appointment and went.

Let me interrupt here a second.  Patti and I recognize that sometimes there is some sort of spiritual readjustment necessary to get physically sound and well.  I know this can get very legalistic and crazy in this venue, but we’ve seen inner healing bring physical healing—lots of times actually.  Not every time, but too many times to ignore the possibility.

So, about eight days into my personal hell, my wife asked me what I knew she was already thinking. My wife has never helped me develop the skills of trying to read her mind.  I’m usually told what is on her mind before I ever have a thought about what she might be thinking.

So, do you have a problem with someone or something?  You’re out of alignment.  What’s going on?

It just pissed me off when she said it, because I knew she was right.  I had already been going over that question in my mind.  I issued a generalized: negatory goodbuddy!

I frikk’n sneezed Patti!  Don’t get weird on me.  I frikk’n sneezed, I’m hurt, and I’m not too happy about it.  Just pray.

Men can be such whiney pricks.

My chiropractor appointment was that morning.  Patti left for the day and I went to the bathroom to shower and shave—AND there he was again.  Naked self.  Except, this time the dude was toting an attitude.

Any particular reason why you feel inclined to bark at your wife because she’s asking the same questions you’d be asking her if she was in your situation?

I have no defense.

What’s the matter with you?  You seem to be tense about every thing in your life right now.  You are out of alignment and I’m not just talking about your back.

Frik!  See I told you.  Invasive.  Ruthless.  At this point my nose is on the mirror and I’m staring through the dark windows.

You just left a season you absolutely loved.  You still need rest, creative space, and you’re undone with a couple of months of transition and mystery?

How the heck does naked self know this stuff?

This down time is the time to plan, think, dream (remember when you used to love to dream?) and deal with the downed fences around the pasture.

Anything else?

Stop thinking about having to do some “thing” that will change the whole world.  It’s a ridiculous notion.  Be willing to serve those around you today.  HE has already done what is necessary to change the world.  It’s too much pressure.  It’s hard to love if you’re under religious pressure.  Love and serve.  That’s it.  Love and serve.  You can do that no matter where you are.

That was the big stuff.  Naked self addressed a couple more personal items that really aren’t important to anyone else, so I’ll spare you the details.

I then dressed and went to my appointment.  It was NOT a Dr. Gary adjustment.  Holy crap!  I had to go home afterwards to see if I soiled myself.  Wow.

But I felt better the very next day.  Two days later, I went back for another adjustment.  Everything was back in alignment, and I was on the treadmill and lifting weights again the very next day.  BOOM!  Just like that!

The temptation here is to produce the formula.  There is nothing in here that remotely resembles a formula.  There is no formula.  THERE IS NO FRIKK’N FORMULA!

What I think I got out of my little baño episode is that naked self should probably have more stage time than what he or she really gets.  Not in a weird selfie-way (God please deliver us from this fad), but in a truth encounter way.  Why?  Because there are some things in our lives that can only be addressed by us.  And from deep inside all of that compacted dust and earth from which we were all created, we need to decide and make some changes—knowing all too well that change can be painful and lonely.

I’m not a professional in this sport, but I do try to be honest and forthright.  Naked self sometimes needs to get our attention because we’re not listening to anyone, including the Lord.  Naked self probably has some stuff to say.

It might be about your personal aesthetics (which usually only reveals a more serious issue if you’ve got the courage to face it).

It could be a legitimate need to readjust attitudes, postures, and spiritual hygiene.

Or even, “Hey dude… you’re wearing me out with all your vibration and fear.  Settle yo rear, would ya?  At least pretend you got some faith.”

And then there is all the stuff about our relationships and communique portfolio regarding the important people in our lives.

For me, it was time for the unglorious colloquy with naked self.  An adjustment prior to the adjustment.

It might be time for you too.


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February 13, 2014 2 comments

I’m  gonna tell you straight up, and I make no apologies for this:   I’m doing it to you again.

JohnsonI posted a link to Michael Hindes’ sermon “Resolutions” weeks ago (Jan 16) with a sincere hope that you might avail yourself to that message.  As stated early, my desire was only to point you to what might be deemed significant for your development.

This past weekend, my long-time friend David Johnson and his sweet wife Bonnie, made an attempt to escape the deep freeze of Minnesota for some warm gulf air.  They did thaw some, but not much.  It’s been cold here deep in the Heart of Texas.

The elders at ECF invited David to preach and he responded with a message that was quite moving.  If you’re a person who struggles with the dichotomy of a GOOD, BENEVOLENT—GRACIOUS GOD and a sometimes MEAN, UNJUST—HURTFUL WORLD… this message is for you!  Let me encourage you to take 45 minutes and dial in to what the Spirit might be saying.  It was an incredible message!  You won’t be disappointed.

David Johnson is Sr. Pastor at Church of the Open Door in Maple Grove, MN.  You’ll not hear a more gifted Bible teacher than this guy.  I have the greatest friends on the planet.  I’m so blessed!


(Be patient.  It might take a minute or so to load.)



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February 6, 2014 9 comments

I recently read several articles on the intentional flaws found in Navajo art, particularly in woven products.  There might be a slight break in the pattern, or a single off-colored thread woven into the fabric.  But somewhere in that blanket, there is an intentionally-simulated imperfection that has a spiritual purpose.

Rudolph-Carl-Gorman-Navajo-WeaverAlthough the imperfection is usually referenced as “the door” of entrance or exit for the spirit to enter or leave the art, what is actually happening has multiple explanations or implications.

One explanation is that these artists pour their hearts and souls into these projects.  Once finished, they want their souls back.  The “imperfection” is the door through which these souls can return to their artists.

Another artist explained that the new creation needs a soul of its own and the flaw allows for the spirit to enter and take up residence.

I guess all those suggestions work just fine, but the overall message is clear:

The imperfection is embraced inside of the perfection.

In other words, this is a posture quite contrary to what we would view as excellence.  This paradigm embraces the idea that perfection isn’t the eradication of flaws, but the incorporation of flaws.

That might be helpful to us spiritual folk.

But many of us westerners can’t wrap our minds around that kind of thinking.  We want things to look perfect.  We’re quick to dismiss anything that doesn’t hold up to our external standards of “perfection.”  Even our chaos has to be managed, arranged, and propped up with all kinds of lights and smoking mirrors.

If we’re that way with other people and things, I wonder how we really feel about the flaws within ourselves?

Rohr stirred me up a couple of mornings ago about this very thing:

We are only now daring to believe, after 2000 years of revelation of the mystery of Christ, what Satan discovered at the crucifixion.  The Evil One knows that the place to attack us is in the area where we are most subject to shame, where we are most weak and truly “out of character:” OUR BODILINESS.  Satan knows that is the last place where we will expect or look for God.  And God knows that only forgiven sinners and spiritual searchers will find God there.

Here are the rest of Rohr’s thoughts.  Yes, it’s heady, but rich.  Dig in here:

So evil has found the breach in the wall and attacked each of us there with “a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan” (2 Cor. 12:7).  Unfortunately, it worked!  Much of Christian tradition has been negatively and uselessly trapped in guilt and preoccupation with our body, while the great issues of justice, gospel and grace have gone unheeded.  The result has been rigidity and repression—much of it called “holiness.”  This response has been Evil’s greatest triumph over gospel freedom.  It has horribly entrapped the positive power of human affection.

He concludes with these stretching thoughts:

Christ will have his harvest, though.  It will be through weak flesh, that least-suspected place, where health and growth will be revealed.  Richard Rohr – Sojourner’s magazine “Pure Passion”

Maybe the real benefit of community is that we have to become grace-filled in order to reside among each other.  Your deficiency becomes “the door” for the Spirit to work through me.  My weakness becomes “the door” for the Spirit to release strength through you.  Now my love and acceptance isn’t contingent upon you getting your shit together, according to my idea of what all that means.

I see you for how you really are.  You approach me regardless of how I really am.  Love manifests anyway.  It does, it sits, it moves, it swirls, it flows – regardless of the imperfections, ticks, and thorns.  People have a shot to grow up in those kinds of relationships.

A real shot… flaws and all.



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