Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Richard Foster’

This morning, while contemplating the phrase, “my times are in your hands,” from Psalm 31:15a, I considered how I would respond. Am I willing to give my time to God? Am I willing to surrender my time? So much of me is a planner: gotta be productive. Got so much to do. Busy, busy, busy. For years, this has been my unspoken mantra, drumming away in the background.

On St. Patrick’s Day, while still in Zambia, I slipped on wet concrete, my feet going up behind me and I landed full frontal on top of my wrist. Subsequent journeys to Lusaka to get it set and cast has nearly immobilized me. Wasn’t I already going slow enough on Zambia time? Apparently not. At first, I simply assumed there was a reason I needed to extend my stay by two weeks. But my return to the States has continued to see me moving at a different speed. The dang thing hurts. It’s uncomfortable to rest the hand/arm in any position. I can’t lift or push or grab with my left hand. I have to ask for help, even pouring oatmeal in a bowl or cutting a bagel in half. I have to stand around as others set the table or clean up after a meal.

But here’s the real message for me. It takes time to heal and it’s not always easy, comfortable, or painless. I am on a journey of spiritual formation: becoming more Christ-like and revealing my “true self.” Any believer is ultimately on this critical journey, but the path is different for each one. So, while I kvetch about my wrist, I see I am also bellyaching about my journey inward. Shouldn’t I be farther along by now? Shouldn’t I this or that? Wouldn’t I be/feel/know more? Is my wrist falling out of alignment? Is that why it hurts?

The wrist is on schedule. I just don’t like the speed of the progress. I don’t like the adjustments or the discomfort. It simply takes time. My body is fearfully and wonderfully made. My wrist will heal.

My soul and spirit are no less resilient and beloved. My false self will fall away, bit by bit, and I will know the healing grace of God more and more. My times are in God’s hands.

Read Full Post »

Pastor Jess Bousa of Restore Church tells an interesting story about a woman who called up a pastor to give the church broken pianoher piano. When they arrived to pick it up, she explained that she had purchased a new piano and no longer needed the old one. And so she gave it to the church. I am “convicted” as they say by this story. After all, is that the intention of giving to God, our second, third or fourth best? Or, is it supposed to be our first fruits? In other words, not the old piano but the new one. That’s a sacrifice, that’s giving something of true value. We so often treat the church like the used clothing store. I have been guilty of this too.

Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name—there you are to bring everything I command you: your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, and all the choice possessions you have vowed to the Lord. [Deuteronomy 12:11, NIV]

What choice possessions have I given? I am close to the full tithe. Not completely, but close. I’m still negotiating, I know. It’s fear based. I know that God will bless me if I give out of my faith. But when I withhold, my faith becomes dented, like a dip in the road. Or worse, maybe it’s whack against my foundation. For a while, my house will continue to stand, but if I allow enough whack, I shouldn’t be surprised if there’s a collapse. I’m just sayin.’

But outside of money, what else is there to give? Our church collects clothing for swaps and the like. It’s amazing the condition of items that are given: stained and torn, sometimes it would do better in the rag bag. Is there pleasure in this kind of giving? Or during the holidays, we are encouraged to “adopt” a child and purchase gifts for him/her. We finally had to spell it out, “spend $75” on your adopted kid because people were going to the dollar store, buying the cheapest things, the least valuable.

freedom-writersAbout a year after we adopted our Russian daughter who was struggling with English in high school along with white, middle class bullies. At the same time, she had never known people of color, so I took her to see the film, Freedom Writers. In this film, a teacher, played by Hilary Swank, inspires a class of at-risk students to learn tolerance, apply themselves, and pursue education (a hope for a future). But before the teacher got there, these same students, mostly poor, were given the worst supplies, the shabbiest books, and so forth. The administration reinforced the expectations that the students were unworthy. The teacher in this film took a risk and gave them new books and opportunities never afforded them before. She gave her best. And she commanded their best. [For my daughter, this opened her own eyes as well, to prejudice of all kinds and she turned a huge corner.]

Once I admired a pair of earrings a woman was wearing. She told me they were her favorite earrings and she, too, liked wearing them. The next time I saw her, she gave me a small box and inside were the same earrings. Not new, no, but the very ones she loved the most. And now, they are one of my favorite pair as well. A small gift she gave, but from the heart. She gave the earrings to me physically, but in essence, she gave them to God.

letting goI’ve been doing a lot of downsizing as I moved into a smaller house. I literally had to let go of most of my furniture and when I could, I sold it. But really, not all of it would sell. Among these things was my very expensive bedroom set. It was two days before moving day and still no one would buy it and so, I gave it away to a family in the church. And I felt better about that giving than any dollar I earned from anything else. simplicity

Slowly, I’m getting the idea. It may take one more downsize, one more letting go move, to really “let go” of the stuff, to experience true simplicity. For I’m thinking that it is out of simplicity that generosity flows. I will no longer “rate” the value of what I have and give the less or more valuable, but all of it is a feather in the wind.

Read Full Post »

“. . . search your hearts and be silent. Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord.” [Psalm 4:4b-5, NIV 1984]

examenBefore anyone starts the blame game, God says look at ourselves first. That’s right. Look at our own hearts because it’s very possible that our circumstances are an outgrowth of our own intentions, our own motives, camouflaged as self-righteousness.

Richard Foster calls it the “prayer of examen,” with two parts: the examen of consciousness and the examen of conscience.

The first asks me to reflect on the “thoughts, feelings, and actions of my day to see how God has been at work . . . and how I responded.” In other words, did God speak through others, through nature, through print, through image, or through circumstance; did I notice? Was I aware of Presence? Did I recognize God and how did I respond? Did I assume it was “not” God and respond with anger, disgust, or judgment? Did I stop long enough to see a need, a sorrow, or a joy? Did I walk through my day with blinders, dark glasses, or binoculars? Did I remember God?

In the second type of examen (conscience), I am to invite the Lord to search my heart to its very depth, but to remember it’s a “scrutiny of love.” Foster states, “without apology and without defense we ask to see what is truly in us. It is for our own sake that we ask these things. It is for our good, for our healing, for our happiness.” This search is done with God, otherwise, we will either justify our actions and find excuses or we will self-flagellate, finding ourselves unworthy. Neither is the point.

And why do we do these examinations? To know ourselves in the light of God’s grace, because it is only from the truth that God can build human as we were always intended to be. “Through faith, self-knowledge leads us to a self-acceptance and a self-love that draw their life from God’s acceptance and love.” (Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 31)

It is in this process that words and complaints lose their import. Silence is listening.

When understanding dawns, then it is time for right sacrifice. Of course, in the time of King David, sacrifices were specific to sin: a particular animal, a type of grain, a wave, and so on. Each sacrifice was tuned to the sin for which it was offered. But Christ completed that sin offering for us, once and for all. So what is an appropriate sacrifice from us today? The first verse that comes to my mind is  Hebrews 13:15, “Through Jesus, then, let us keep offering to God our own sacrifice, the praise of lips that confess His name without ceasing. ” [The Voice translation] Another is Romans 12:1 [also in the Voice], “Brothers and sisters, in light of all I have shared with you about God’s mercies, I urge you to offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship.”
With these sacrifices, there is an intention then. There has to be, an expression of trust. The path might look something like this: Search, Confess, Sacrifice, Trust. And perhaps, finally, Rest.

 

Read Full Post »

It’s the verbs and they all say the same thing: persist, persevere, adhere, apply oneself, carry on, conduct, continue, cultivate, engage in, hold to, keep on, maintain, perform, ply, practice, proceed, prosecute, see through, tackle, work at . . . This is Christ-based engagement.

II Timothy 2:22b
. . . pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

Righteousness, faith, love and peace are the foundations of our faith walk (and if we were honest about it, these are roots to most faiths in the matter of behaviors). They are essential to “human.” If I could live out righteousness (and I love how the Amplified defines this: “all that is virtuous and good, right living, conformity to the will of God in thought, word, and deed”), build my faith (and trust) in a truly sovereign God, love others as the sacred souls they are, and promote peace in my circle of influence, my world would be different. I would be a change agent and like a pebble thrown into a pond, the circle would expand.

Influence comes out of authentic living in the Christ.

But all of this kind of talk is so general, it’s a concept, it’s knowledge, but what will it look like today? When I enter the “prayer of examen” (as Richard Foster writes in his book, Prayer), will I recognize the words and actions of any of these four pillars? Can I be more mindful today that I was yesterday or the day before? Can I be conscious in my choices?

Each day, I spend time in confession, asking God to forgive me my missteps, my harsh words, my judgmental thoughts. But, can I as well, give thanks for those other times, those times I actually connected with the Holy Spirit in a viable and observable way? That would be a good thing.

Read Full Post »

Look inside and out before eating the holy meal. Communion is a combination of a corporate act [with other believers] and a personal examination. The encounter doesn’t work very well if we don’t really believe or accept that the bread & wine [or juice] have power.

I Corinthians 11:28-29
Let a {woman or} man [thoroughly] examine himself, and [only when he has done] so should he eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discriminating and recognizing with due appreciation that [it is Christ’s] body, eats and drinks a sentence (a verdict of judgment) upon himself.
[Amplified]

I encountered the word “examen” for the first time while reading Richard Foster’s book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home some years ago. It’s no “navel gazing,” far from it. Foster says, “In the examen of consciousness we prayerfully reflect on the thoughts, feelings, and actions of our days to see how God has been at work among us and how we responded. . . . God goes with us in the examen of conscience. It is a joint search. . . . if left to our own devices . . . our tendency is for self-flagellation.”

Examen is not about tying ourselves to the whipping post, it’s about seeing ourselves in truth, with love. It’s the time when we can begin to lay down our burdens and failures at the feet of the Christ.

In recent times, I have taken to the practice of examen at the start of my devotions each day. I ask forgiveness for my mistakes [sins] and give thanks for the successes, those times I responded to situations and people in loving way. Only then, can I really begin to pray forward.

Communion should be the same, but perhaps a little deeper, a broader swipe over the time since the last opportunity to eat and drink of Christ.

What has gone before is the foundation of who I am today. And my future is built on both, the past and present. If I ignore the past, then I may be setting myself up for repeating it, doing the same things again and again? It was Albert Einstein who said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

I cannot change unless I know what part needs changing. I cannot go on a diet and lose weight if I don’t know my starting weight, otherwise, how will I know the difference? I must be willing to face and accept my authentic self. Like the recovering alcoholic, we too must “Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” [step 4 of the 12 steps]

The prayer of examen, particularly at the time of communion, is a photograph. I must let God see the true picture, not one that’s been airbrushed or “photoshopped.” And like a flipbook, only God gets to see the flapping of pages and photos that represent my progress over the years. God knows my whole story.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: