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bone dry

September 2, 2021 4 comments

I call to you, O Lord, from my quiet darkness. Show me your mercy and love. Let me see your face, hear your voice, touch the hem of your cloak. I want to love you, be with you, speak to you and simply stand in your presence. But I cannot make it happen. Pressing my eyes against my hands is not praying and reading about your presence is not living in it.

But there is that moment in which you will come to me, as you did to your fearful disciples, and say, “Do not be afraid; it is I.” Let that moment come soon, O Lord. And if you want to delay it, then make me patient. Amen.

—From “A Cry for Mercy” by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Have you ever found yourself in such a condition that you know your inner capacities to be “bone dry?” The sheer humanness of Nouwen’s prayer is something I think we can all identify with. There are times and seasons where we feel our “emptiness”—our parched thirst for something beyond the daily spiritual tap water we live on.

I see our selfies. I realize there are times when our disciplines keep us “afloat,” especially when, emotionally, we feel like bobbing corks existing in our own isolated and unnoticed ponds. The truth is that we usually trust our disciplines because they lift us up more than we consciously validate.  But there are times when we just can’t find the handle to refreshment and living water. Another reading… another poem… another chapter… another study… another verse doesn’t do it. That’s when the “quiet darkness” settles in, and we must wait in silence for the only thing that will bring us back into the ebb and flow of life: Presence and Voice.

“Do not be afraid; it is I.” See, there it is. That Presence and Voice… coming to us… speaking to the thing that has shriveled our flesh and infected our bones with paralyzing fear. Nouwen suggests that “ramping up” our religious activities might actually be counterproductive. Like tired little hummingbirds, we must wait patiently and settle down into the darkness until the Light reveals where the true nectar of life resides. —MDP

Here’s another prayer for you to wear today. These are not my words… they come from a spiritual daughter.  Feel the wind as you pray:

I pray that as you call out to the Lord from quiet darkness, He would show you His mercy and His incredible love for you!  I pray you would see His face, hear His voice, and touch the hem of His cloak. I pray you would feel His presence, know that you ARE living in it, and be at complete peace. Amen!

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kisses of Jesus

August 18, 2021 1 comment

Suffering—

Pain, humiliation, sickness and failure—

is but a kiss of Jesus.

Once I met a lady who had a terrible cancer.

She was suffering so much.

I told her,

“Now you come so close to Jesus on the cross that he is kissing you.”

Then she joined hands and said,

“Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me.”

It was so beautiful.

She understood.

Suffering is a gift of God

A gift that makes us most Christlike.

People must not accept suffering as punishment.

—From “Words to Love By” by Mother Teresa

It’s been a couple of months since I first read these words by Mother Teresa on suffering.  Since then, I’ve read this offering at least 50 times. I’ve wanted to push back on the blessed sister, but I don’t think I’ve got enough secure footing to even bring it up. This whole genre of suffering makes me feel that I don’t really understand too much. I can identify with brokenness and discomfort at some level, but suffering? I know people who have suffered, not only in body, but also in heart, and soul, and mental anguish. I’ve lost some people that I’ve cared about, and I know the disappointment of failure, betrayal, and my own sins. But this kind of pain and suffering, this “thing” Mother Teresa addresses, has yet to show up on my own doorstep.

These last three lines bore into you, if you allowed them to:

“Suffering is a gift of God.”

“A gift that makes us most Christlike.”

“People must not accept suffering as punishment.”

This exposes how shallow I am. Seriously. She doesn’t say this is the only way to make us Christlike, but I get the feeling it might be the only true way to get there. I don’t think I trust religion or our spiritual processes to get us there, or anything else which requires our own choices or energies. She calls it a “gift,” and for it to be a “gift,” it must be given from elsewhere, and received by me. In other words, I can’t fabricate and declare my own “gift.” A gift ends up in my lap, and how I interact with that gift has everything to do with how that gift affects me.

The last line is also telling: If your ideas of God are enveloped with and supported by punitive notions and theology, then, of course you’ll see suffering as punishment.  What Mother Teresa teaches us, is that our “fear” of a punitive God is misplaced, and doing us no favors. God is either good or God isn’t.  So, which is it?

You may just have to sit with this one for a while (her words, not mine). I feel a massive pull to trust the love of God here. I talk and preach about it ALL OF THE TIME, but trusting that Love when you cannot always see it or feel it is another matter altogether. The Saint is tells us that Jesus is kissing us in our suffering. This feels like something other than “religion” as usual. —MDP

Categories: Uncategorized

joy

August 4, 2021 Leave a comment

The joy that Jesus offers his disciples is his own joy, which flows from his intimate communion with the one who sent him. It is a joy that does not separate happy days from sad days, successful moments from moments of failure, experiences of honor from experiences of dishonor, passion from resurrection. This joy is a divine gift that does not leave us during times of illness, poverty, oppression, or persecution. It is present even when the world laughs or tortures, robs or maims, fights or kills. It is truly a static, always moving us away from the House of fear into the House of love, and always proclaiming that death no longer has the final say, though its noise remains loud and its devastation visible. The joy of Jesus lifts up life to be celebrated.

—From “Lifesigns” by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Until we understand and enter the truth of the very first sentence of this offering by Nouwen, it is impossible to enter into the magnificence of the remaining truths. Joy can’t be obtained by right theology, dualistic swordplay, declarations of, “I’m right, you’re wrong,” externals of any kind, winning or trophies, or any other religious activity that serves or attempts to validate earned righteousness. Joy comes from another realm altogether. It is maintained by intimacy: a “knowing,” downloaded only by prolonged exposure to the ultimate Source of joy. A belief system cannot deliver this. This is about Spirit-to-spirit communion. Direct contact with Joy itself.

You’ll know when you’ve met a person who lives in that flow. They’re different. I’ve met a few in my lifetime. They’ve made the move from the House of fear to the House of love. It’s a beautiful thing to see. Maybe I’ll get there myself someday. Hopefully, all of us will. —MDP

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power versus love

July 21, 2021 4 comments

There are always two worlds. The world as it operates is largely about power; the world as it should be, or the Reign of God, is always about love. Conversion is almost entirely about moving from one world to the next, and yet having to live in both worlds at the same time. As you allow yourself to loosen your grip on the ego or bad forms of power, you will gradually see the inadequacy and weakness of mere domination and control. God will then teach you how to tighten your grip around the second world, which is the ever-purer motivation of love.

Any exercise of power apart from love leads to brutality and evil; but any claim to love that does not lead to using power for others is mere sentimentality and emotion. I must admit, it is rare to find people who hold both together in perfect balance—who have found their power and used it for others or people who have found love and use it for good purposes. I think the Reign of God includes both love and power in a lovely dance.

I think that is what Jesus means when he tells us to be “cunning as serpents but gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16). It is a beautiful combination of both authority and vulnerability.

*Adapted from “Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount,” p. 41 

I love this so much, and the truth of it all is enough to stop any serious reader in his or her own tracks. Have you ever been accosted in the middle of a power grab, with that small still voice that says, “What am I doing?” I have, so I’m not pointing a finger.  It’s not much different from the Voice that says, “What are you doing?” But, let me put it in bold for you: Any exercise of power apart from love leads to brutality and evil; but any claim to love that does not lead to using power for others is mere sentimentality and emotion.  Personally, I don’t think it’s possible in the least, apart from the supernatural influence of humility downloaded directly from the Holy Spirit. We beat our chests too easily in matters concerning power (politics, winning—things we want to control). It’s a convoluted cluster when we wear the label without the nature of our Source. Peterson translated it perfectly when he writes, “Love doesn’t strut” (1 Corinthians 13, The Message). Have we lost our “eyes to see” how messed up this can be?

I wonder if we’re doing the real math concerning these matters. It feels to me that the kingdom agenda has been completely derailed, or even worse—abandoned—for power politics by our horizontal (man-focused) allegiances to those who claim to be “followers of the Christ,” but lacks any real evidence of compassion, gentleness, peace, or love. I realize that Elvis has left the building on this issue, but what is required for us to readjust to “powerless,” “power-under” living?

A woman recently told me, “We (the Church) need revival.” It always makes me wonder what is really meant when someone utters those words. I suspect there is some deep longing for an emotional reattachment to some long-lost memory of the “glory days” of the past. We DO need revival, but what I know about revival usually begins with one person… then two… then a dozen… who decide that living and loving like Jesus is the main thing. We DO need a revival… no question, but it’s always going to reveal more fruits of the Spirit: less “me” power, and more of “God’s” love.  That is the real power. Power that counts. —MDP

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the normality of change

As we increasingly abide in Jesus Christ, live in that heart, see through those eyes, we begin to notice a strange paradox. We the sheep begin to take on the nature of the Shepherd! Every metaphor and parable has its limits, and this story in John 10 puts us in the role of sheep. Sheep are not notable for their charm or intelligence. They are singularly clueless. They wander off and get lost. They eat poisonous weeds. They fall into ravines. They graze at the same spot until they strip it of all grass and pollute the ground. (Actually, this does sound like a lot of us humans!) At best, sheep are neither exciting nor creative. Is this really the way God sees us? Does God want us to be, at best, submissive sheep?

Not at all. Jesus told many other stories that reveal humans as complex and potentially creative sons and daughters of God. We are not just to be obedient animals for all eternity. This story enters on the deep love, and trust, the bond, and the discerning recognition of the characteristics of the shepherd. This particular story does not emphasize the tremendous paradoxical truth that we the sheep change. In our shepherding role to others—as parent, teacher, caregiver, counselor, listening friend—we begin to guide as we have been guided. Our faces and voices will change. The way we listen and respond will change, not through imitation but spontaneously through deep love. “When he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

 —Flora Slosson Wuellner, “Enter by the Gate”

I wonder how often it’s noticed of us that the salute on our lives is easily discerned and attributed to that “deep love” of Jesus’ influence. Have our “faces and voices” been changed by His holy love? Is it noticeable… is it visible… tangible? Is it practically evident to those who catch a glimpse of the “real us” outside of religious environments? —MDP

Categories: Uncategorized

perfect pour

June 30, 2021 6 comments

“The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, which has been given us.” —Romans 5:5

To span the infinite gap between the Divine and the human, God’s agenda is to plant a little bit of God, the Holy Spirit, right inside of us! (Jeremiah 31:31-34; John 14:16ff).

This is the very meaning of the new covenant, and the replacing of the “heart of stone with a heart of flesh,” as Ezekiel promised (36:25-27). Isn’t that wonderful? It is God doing the loving, in and through us, back to God, towards our neighbor and enemy alike, and even towards the sad and broken parts of ourselves. “You will know him because God (Spirit) is with you… God (Spirit) is within you.”

+Adapted from “Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality,” p. 97

The last time I was in Ireland, I was taught by a local pub employee how to pour the “perfect” pint of Guinness. It’s a three-part procedure that requires patience, a steady hand, and an astute attention to detail.

The first pour fills the glass about three-fourths full. Then the glass sits for a couple of minutes to let the beer settle down. Next, the glass is slowly filled to about 95 percent capacity and allowed to sit for another couple of minutes. The third stage requires gently inserting the long spout below the thick foamy head, and slowly pouring beer until the head (about three-eighths of an inch) rises comfortably at—and slightly above—the rim of the glass (without spilling over the glass). It’s known as the “perfect pour,” and is pretty much the expectation and part of the overall ambiance of any noble drinking establishment in that country.

Strong’s Concordance interprets the word ekchunnō (in Romans 5:5) as to pour out… figuratively to bestow: gushed, poured, rushed headlong, shed, spilled. It seems that the Holy Spirit is excited to, eager to, even over-willing to pour love into us in super-abundance. It makes me wonder if this is what gives the Spirit chill-bumps—when we release what has been given to us by the Divine and, in turn, pour our love into whatever we encounter in this life? Maybe that’s the logical finish to the “perfect pour”—a consumable product for another’s thirsty soul. —MDP

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believe and/or follow?

June 23, 2021 Leave a comment

Goodness! How difficult it is to believe in the sort of Messiah that Jesus of Nazareth represents!

To Believe that we win by losing our very selves!

To believe that love is everything.

To believe that power is a great danger, wealth slavery, comfortable life a misfortune.

It is not easy.

This is why you hear [people] in the street say, “If there was a God there would not be all this suffering.”

Two thousand years have gone, and there are still Christians whose doctrinal notions belong to those ancient days when the power and existence of God was revealed by displays of strength and the victory of armies. And especially by wealth and having more possessions.

The real secret had not then been received.

Nor is it received very easily even today.

Hence the blasphemy in general circulation denying the kingdom’s visibility, given the ordeal of suffering and death.

The old teaching that we, the Church, must be strong still feeds our determination to possess the land and dominate the work!

We must make ourselves felt. We must keep our enemies down. We must scowl. We must win, and to win we need money, money, money. And to have money we need banks, we need the means, and we need clever bankers. How can we do good without means, without money? Let’s have a big meeting, and then any opposition will be shamed into silence. Well, we must defend our rights, the rights of the Church. We must defeat our enemies.

Enemies, always enemies on the Church’s horizon! Yet Jesus has told us in no uncertain terms that we no longer have any enemies, since they are the same people we are supposed to love, and love specially.

Can it be that we have not understood?

Don’t we read the Gospel in our churches?

How long shall we wait before following the teaching of Jesus?

—From “Why Oh Lord” by Carlo Carretto

Sadly, the questions are legitimate. Don’t we all wish that filling pews on Sunday morning, writing our tithe checks, attending to our bibles, and wearing the cross, all satisfy the “follow me” of Jesus? There is so much emphasis on being a “believer,” and too little mention of followship, discipleship, and living the love of the Christ. Do we not see this — or do we just choose what is most comfortable to us now?

We should spend some time in self reflection, and not assume we’re in perfect flow with Him. If we’ve reached an ease of comfort with “following,” maybe we’re not. Jesus didn’t portray a lot of soothing imagery about what it looks like to follow Him. I think there are invasive elements in that kind of commitment. Everything gets touched and measured by that kind of “followship.” Is that why we’re hesitant? —MDP

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be fish

June 16, 2021 2 comments

So often we are too full of what we think should be happening to us in our spiritual formation to notice what God is actually teaching us. We must be still enough, simple enough, humble enough, to let him plan the course, and use whatever opportunities there may be for our instruction.

We must not think as we progress in prayer everything will necessarily become much more overtly holy. What it will become is more simple, more humble, more actual.

St. Ambrose gave his congregation some very good advice. Using the old Christian symbol, he compared them in this stormy world to fish swimming in the sea. And to them too he said: “Be a fish.” We must learn how not to be swamped by the situations that we find ourselves in. We must learn how to get through them with a minimum of damage, and a maximum of profit.

One aspect of this is simply learning to get through situations, and not always to want to take them with us. There is a story told of two monks in Japan, “traveling together down a muddy road. A heavy rain was still falling. Coming around a bend, they met a lovely girl in a silk kimono and sash, unable to cross the intersection. ‘Come on, girl,’ said Tanza at once. Lifting her in his arms, he carried her over the mud. Okito did not speak again until that night when they reached a lodging temple. Then he no longer could restrain himself. ‘We monks don’t go near females,’ he told Tanzan, ‘especially not young and lovely ones. It is dangerous. Why did you do that?’ ‘I left the girl there,’ said Tanzan. ‘Are you still carrying her?’ “

We must learn to pass through situations like a fish, rather than carrying them all with us like a snail. We should certainly emerge with a little bit more experience of life, there is no need to carry more with us than we have to—each situation carries quite enough trouble with it by itself!

—From Prayer by Simon Tugwell

Tugwell presents a beautiful concept that is not always popular with us modern-day Christians. It’s this whole idea of our being “fish” that doesn’t always sit well.  We want to believe we were designed and built to thrive and fulfill our own destinies—in our own strength—all while still conveniently living under the protection and “influence” of Christ.  But we “fish” are also suffocating under the pressures of life’s sometimes muddy or turbulent waters.

I wonder if fish panic and fret over muddy or turbulent waters?

I wonder if fish think, “something is wrong!” when they encounter any kind of threat?

I wonder if fish would rather live their existence in a sterile environment of privileged perfection (i.e. the aquarium) without stretching, challenges, or even mystery. Or would they rather brave the vast and wild uncertainty of rivers, lakes, and seas?

St. Ambrose was definitely onto something worth pondering.

“Be fish!” —MDP

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tendeth to peace?

June 9, 2021 2 comments

All desire peace, but they do not care for the things that pertain to true peace.

A peaceable man doth more good than he that is well learned.

Peace consisteth rather in true humility, than in self-exaltation.

A good and peaceable man turneth all things to good. He that is in peace is not suspicious of any. But he that is discontented and troubled is tossed with divers (various & questionable) suspicions: he is neither quiet himself, nor suffereth others to be quiet. He often speaketh that which he ought not to speak; and leaveth undone that which is more expedient for him to do. He considereth what others are bound to do, and neglecteth that which he is bound to do himself.

O how good is it, and how it tendeth to peace, to be silent about other men, and not to believe at random all that is said, nor eagerly to report what we have heard. How good it is to lay one’s self open to few, and always to be seeking after thee who are the searcher of the heart. Nor should we be carried about with every wind of words, but we should desire that all things both within and without, be accomplished according to the pleasure of thy will.

—Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

This last paragraph, written by Kempis, is killer! The rest of it is pretty dang good also, but those last few sentences peel back the religious facades of modern-day church people. Kempis reminds us that we preach peace, but we don’t live in peace. We don’t live in peace because of the messages we absorb, the things we do, and the ways we think. Kempis wrote these prophetic truths long ago… but, wowzah! Does it ever hit the mark now!

Are we “silent” about other people we may or may not agree with?

It’s doubtful.

Do we automatically and randomly agree with every ill-willed word towards one another, especially when that person is on the “other side” of what we think and believe?

It’s probable.

What about eagerly reporting that ill-will?

Hmmmm. Yeah… more than likely.

How far are we carried from peace by every “wind of words?”

Our favorite news (entertainment) sources, media, online personalitiesthey all keep us reeling in absolute terror and seething frustration (mostly anger and anxiety). We see the boogieman everywhere! Have you ever read of Jesus’ screaming about his freedom or rights or the loss of his own personal liberty?

“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). It appears that we’ve never heard this before.

Who has your ear and your heart? The latest report from the “authoritative crowd?” Or the Spirit of peace and joy?

Are you sure about that? —MDP

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i’m going to wait

June 2, 2021 8 comments

Nicole (my eldest and mother of William the Warrior) sent me a link to this worship video, and said… “This has been my “go to” for the last six weeks.” Are you feeling anxious… panicky… stressed beyond measure? Try this. These kids rock these truths. Unbelievable talent. Incredible message. Let this roll over you. If it’s not your cup o’ tea, that’s okay too. It beyond refreshing to see this kind of energy from young people. Evidently not all millennials are bored with God. It’s wonderful! —MDP

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