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Archive for the ‘Eastertide’ Category

Art by Brad Moody

Art by Brad Moody

Honestly, it never occurred to me that walking on water might be normal behavior. Think about it. The way the story goes, Jesus finished praying and then headed out by the most direct route (across the water) to meet up with his friends. It’s not like he stood at the shore and said to himself, “wait til they see this!” It was simply a means to an end. It could have been a true turning point for the disciples. Instead, it was one more picture lesson in faith.

O you of little faith. Why did you doubt and dance back and forth between following Me and heeding fear? [Matthew 14:31b, The Voice translation]

Most Christians, when they get a hold of the possibility that miracles are still possible today, focus on healing. After all, Jesus did a lot of healing and when faced with the pain and suffering of those around us, we want to help, we want to save them, we want to keep our loved ones with us. Heal them Father, we cry out. Have mercy.

When danger is before us, we cry out. When death is near, we shout. When fear feeds on our hearts, we beg for relief.

But no one, at least no one in my circle of friends, asks to walk on water. What’s the point? Walking on water won’t change the world around me, it won’t heal or alleviate suffering, it won’t bring the dead back to life, it won’t change anything. Except for myself.

That’s right. Walking on water is a personal transformation. It’s an assurance of faith within. It’s a breakthrough in surrender, full and complete. All in.

If I walk on water, then all is possible. It’s not the cliche of being perfect at all. It’s something totally different: it’s trust and fearlessness in the face of the natural laws of nature. It is outside 3-D experience. It is Spirit leading flesh, in charge. What it really means is to live in mutuality with the Holy Spirit. “At that time, you will know that I am in the Father, you are in Me, and I am in you.” [John 14:20

Walking on water is the antithesis of fear. Perfect love casts out fear [I John 4:18] and sets the stage for that journey.

Miracles and water walking are a natural outgrowth of a focused faith: love God, love others. This is our part of the bargain–the covenant. Simple. Impossible? Possible.

 

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welcomeOf course, back in my day (the dark ages, I guess), people rarely moved in together without getting married. Or, if they did, it was on the sly or somehow covered up. Now, this “moving in” business is quite the norm, but I have to wonder, how does that transaction go? How do you decide to make the plunge?

The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. [I John 3:24, NIV]

It’s not the same as marriage, not really. I mean, generally speaking, there is not formal document or witnesses to the decision.

Some people move in bit by bit. You know, he (or she) drinks a little too much and really shouldn’t drive home or it gets to be so late, that it’s more convenient to simply spend the night. And then some of the personal toiletries begin to appear and a couple of pairs of clean underwear and voila! A space in the closet, a favorite coffee cup, and an empty drawer. Won’t be long now.

Some people have a nice dinner and talk it over. They might even create plus/minus columns (in their heads) and talk through all the practical reasons to do it (cheaper in the long run, more convenient – or less – to work, better than phone call or skype, etc.)

Some people decide and then change up the place all together. Some people split their time between two places and have personal stuff at both. Some people move in and move out and then move in again. Lots of variety is possible when it’s temporary.

But the mutual arrangement with the Spirit is a little different. There is an invitation to move in, but the Spirit only abides in the areas we allow. If we want to close off the closets or the storage areas, if we want to keep one room for ourselves, if we want to put up “danger, keep out” signs on any part of our inner life, we can. Spirit is the ultimate roommate and partner.

If we ask.

There are only two rules: believe in the Christ, the son of God; and, love one another (other humans). No other clean up is expected. It’s not necessary to hide anything or wash the floors even. Spirit will come in and help with everything. If we allow it. If we want change, really. If we keep up our end: love God, love others.

Intimacy is not with the human form God (Jesus). Intimacy is with Spirit.

Whose voice will I listen to today?

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Statue, Touching Heaven, Brussels

Statue, Touching Heaven, Brussels

As Christians, we are all taught that our God-given destiny is heaven, eternal life, and all that. I can remember, as a child, wondering why everyone thought being in heaven would be so wonderful if we were really just standing around worshiping God and singing all the time. Sounded boring to me. This is where humans are once again clueless.

My loved ones, we have been adopted into God’s family; and we are officially His children now. The full picture of our destiny is not yet clear, but we know this much: when Jesus appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him just as He is.  [I John 3:2; The Voice translation]

We have made up our destiny just like we have made up pictures of Jesus, angels, God, and even the devil. We keep putting them into our own understanding, our own limited imagination. We smile at Elijah’s “chariot of fire” as it whisks him off into the sky or John’s revelation of beasts covered in eyeballs. How primitive their interpretations, we think. But are we any better?

I am reading a fantasy book in which a young girl has been “glamored” with the appearance of human. She’s really faerie, a green pixie in fact. In those types of books, a glamor is an enchantment in which there is a corporate acceptance of what is seen. It is a covering or mask. It was one of the tricks of the Jedi too, to simply plant an idea in the mind of another of what he/she was really seeing.

The truth is, we have very few clues about heaven. Any description in scriptures has been filtered through human. There is much, much more, I’m sure of it. Heaven and eternal life are not extensions of what we are today.

I don’t mean to crudely disappoint those who have expectations of “seeing” their loved ones in heaven. I’m sure, in some state or another, we will encounter the family of God, but we will not look, feel, taste, or see the same. It’s not like this. It’s not here. And that’s the point.

Our destiny is to be like Christ who came to earth to reveal, just a little, of what true living is . . . what Spirit life does, how it works and what its impact is when applied to a 3-D world (hence: miracles). Of course, the norm of Spirit will appear to be a miracle: it’s outside of time and space.

I do not know my true destiny. This is the message of John’s letter. But when I get there, I will know and I will recognize the Christ. . . . and myself in a whole new way.

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Art by Daniel Gerhartz

Art by Daniel Gerhartz

Intimacy is a charged word. Just having it as the title of this blog will get me hundreds of spam comments and false hits. It has been usurped by the sex trade. And yet, it’s the essence of a true relationship, an authentic kinship, a life-changing connection. The Voice translation says it best:

But if someone responds to and obeys His word, then God’s love has truly taken root and filled him. This is how we know we are in an intimate relationship with Him . . . [I John 2:5]

Now let me add my own tweaks to this verse: But IF I respond to and obey His word [the Christ], then God’s love has truly taken root and filled me. This is how I know I am in an intimate relationship with God.

Intimacy implies detailed knowledge of one another. It’s a given that the Spirit (living within me) has detailed knowledge of me. In fact, I’m pretty sure Spirit Christ knows me better than I know myself. But is it reciprocal? Do I know God? Of course not. I can only know what I am open to know. I can only know what is revealed through God’s actions and the Christ who walked the Earth to show us what God looks like in the flesh.

Here is God: follow me. That was Jesus’s message from the beginning, to each disciple: follow. Live the paradox. Love your enemies, go the second mile, love others as you love yourself, be devoted to God. Enter intimacy.

I am not a good friend. Not really.

I protect my heart from most people. Trust is slow. Betrayal feared.

But love requires an open heart, as does intimacy. One cannot come without the other and vice versa. Otherwise, they are both conditional.

My unconscious messages: I will love you if you don’t hurt me. I will expose my true self to you if you prove you are trustworthy. I would rather you not know me.

To have intimacy with God, I must practice with Human, for that is all we really have to work with. Except for pets. They’re easy. They already have the unconditional love part down pat. I am grateful for those small learnings over the years, at the least.

Come Lord Jesus. Teach this girl again. Open my heart. Give me courage to believe that my open heart will be protected in the shadow of your wings.

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marketingI know it feels like marketing sometimes, this “evangelism” or spreading of the gospel, the good news. Back in the day, it was a little different since communication was a personal craft. People who could speak well or or turn a phrase, or read, were the ones who led the way. People who had miraculous experiences were quick to tell (for a season) and eyewitnesses retold what they saw and/or heard again and again. But, have we been playing “chinese telephone?”

The Lord has commanded us to do this. Remember His words:I have appointed you a light to the nations beyond Israel, so you can bring redemption to every corner of the earth.” [Isa 49:6] These words created two strong reactions. The outsiders were thrilled and praised God’s message, and all those who had been appointed for eternal life became believers. Through them the Lord’s message spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders united the aristocratic religious women and the city’s leading men in opposition to Paul and Barnabas, and soon they were persecuted and driven out of the region. They [Paul and Barnabas] simply shook the dust off their feet in protest and moved on . . . [Acts 13:47-51a]

Oral traditions are powerful. The personal telling of a story or episode is always more compelling than a newspaper article or textbook telling of the same event. We have all read about the execution of 6 million Jews in the second world war, but meeting and speaking with even one survivor of the Holocaust will sear the mind forever.  Just last week, two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon, we were appalled and even fascinated, watching hour after hour for the smallest bit of news. And yet, the reality of that story was much more immediate when I spoke to Mary whose daughter was in the race. She was there.

Over the Easter season, I watched the old movie, The Robe, again. The phrase that keeps ringing through my mind was, “Were you there?” And this was the point: being “there,” being at the crucifixion was the turning point for Marcellus Gallio [Richard Burton]. And, in the end, when he finally embraces his first hand experience, he is changed.

It is our own first hand experiences that change us as well. Some of those sagas are dramatic and others are not. We cannot all have a “road to Damascus” [Acts 9] story. And yet, there is something personal that moved us from one place to another, from one belief to another, from one understanding to another. Each moment is different and even unique. When did you come to believe?

But I urge us all to take care. We are not longer living in an oral society. We are living in the Twitterverse where Google and Facebook have become verbs, where the image now trumps words, and “reach” means how many “eyeballs” we can accumulate and entice to land on a web page or a flat screen.

The gospel is not a show. It’s not some event that we are “marketing.” The gospel is only as dynamic as your story is for you.

The rest is hype. And just as you get sick of seeing the same commercial over and over again, so people grow tired of hearing and seeing the canned gospel.

If it really means something to  you . . . to me, then that is story I have to tell. And if it resonates, that’s great. If not, then I simply knock the dust from my shoes and keep on keeping on. Because I know my story is true. I cannot convince anyone to believe it. It just is what it is for me.

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Don Quijote by Octavio Ocampo

Don Quijote by Octavio Ocampo

What is your outlook on life? What is mine, really? Am I a visionary or am I looking down at all the ruts in the road? Do I see a panorama or have I become tunnel visioned? Do I face each day with anticipation (because anything can happen) or apprehension? Do I keep things “in perspective” or is my world askew . . . because of my outlook?

 Listen, your eye, your outlook, the way you see is your lamp. If your way of seeing is functioning well, then your whole life will be enlightened. But if your way of seeing is darkened, then your life will be a dark, dark place. So be careful, people, because your light may be malfunctioning.  [Luke 11:34-45, The Voice Translation]

It’s probably a little of both, but today, I want to be aware. I want to be sensitive to my default way of looking. What is drop-back to normal really like? I have a bad feeling about this assignment today. I talk a good talk; I write a good write. But how do I really look at the world around me?

Be brave. Be true.

I am a visual person mostly. I take the world in through my eyes. But have I lost much of what is out there to see?

Back in the day, I had the honor of playing Annie Sullivan in The Miracle Worker by William Gibson. And although it’s a dramatic moment  the movie to watch Helen Keller suddenly “understand” her world and give water a name, it is even more mind-blowing to live it onstage with another actress fully engaged in the role. Helen Keller saw in a way that most of us never will. She met her  world head on and embraced it.

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followHow many times have you heard someone say that he/she is leaving one church or another because of not being fed. Really! What does that even mean? You see, I can be indignant about this point of view because I was one of those people. And it was stupid and prideful and totally off base.

Honestly, is the gospel message so complicated that it requires years and years of Sunday sermons and adult Sunday School to get it? Is sanctification about learning the words or something else? Is it about memorizing the verses or walking them out?

Paul says, about his own journey . . .

I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go. . . . For now, let’s hold on to what we have been shown and keep in step with these teachings. [Philippians 3: 12, 16; The Voice translation]

It’s application. Plain and simple. It’s practicing the message. It’s acting like a real human being.

How hard is it to understand this: “Love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind; and love your neighbor as yourself.” [Luke 10:27] The words are simple, the message is simple, and the doing? Not so much. If I could just love and love love, that is, really love, so many other things would fall into place, wouldn’t they? After all, love covers a multitude of sins.

Here’s another complicated one [NOT]: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” [James 1:27]

Or maybe we’re not reciting the Apostles Creed enough, to remind ourselves of what we believe. Or the Nicene Creed. Or, if that’s not enough, we can review all the ancient creeds and the articles of faith and the statements of faith of most major denominations HERE. That will keep anyone busy for a week or so. Study on.

But will any of this additional teaching make me a better follower of Christ, a transcendent soul? If I “feed” on more messages of some of the greatest theologians or influential preachers of all time, will my heart and soul be on fire for God more than it was before . . . because of the teaching?

Or can it really be more simple than that?

I think most of us get the “message” within the first year or so of a committed relationship with Christ (either through fellowship, church, or bible study). We understand the gist of it from the beginning. We just don’t want to do it, to live it, to walk what we understood from the beginning.

I know I made it all more complicated. I spent so much energy looking for a shortcut or an inside track or a supernatural anointing, as though walking a life of faith is magic. It’s not magic and it’s not about the miracles. It’s just being real and authentic and transparent. And it’s living the paradox! That’s why it’s called FAITH. And for that reason, because the Christ life is woven in with the paradox [another word for true love] (with Bible examples like turn the other cheek, pray for enemies, walk the extra mile, and care about the other person more than self), I keep trying to work the system, the institution, the traditions, the rules.

And Jesus says to me today, “Just walk what you know.” Do that? And your understanding will be sunshine on a Spring day.

 

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