Wednesday, May 17, 2006

A New Way to Think About Witnessing
I started this journal several weeks ago simply to share my journey of faith. I don’t wish to claim superior knowledge or superior faith. My only desire is to bear witness to the transformation that God is bringing into my life. In the weeks that I’ve been engaged in this intentional journaling and reflecting I’ve been struck by the extraordinary power that comes from this kind of witnessing and sharing. Teaching and preaching certainly have their place in the realm of faith. The transmission of knowledge, understanding and wisdom from one person to another are vital links in the movement of faith throughout the human community and from one generation to the next. However, the transmission of knowledge, understanding and wisdom from “teacher” to “learner” is sometimes incapable of penetrating the depth of one’s spirit in the same way that simply sharing our faith journey with another can do.
I have shared with many friends the power that they have felt, both in the giving and receiving, in sharing their journey with someone else. I believe that there is a kindred spirit that can be developed between fellow travelers, even between very different people, when in grace and openness the journey of faith is shared. There is something very exciting about sharing with someone else the good news of what God is doing in your life! From the day to day feelings of God’s abiding presence and peace to those moments of amazing grace that break unexpectedly in our life God continues to bless us.
In these last eight months of journeying God, I have been blessed in extraordinary ways. Everything that God had done in my life up to the point last fall when I became engaged in the Two Year Academy helped to create an environment of openness and readiness to receive a fuller measure of grace. I’m not sure how many people are sharing my journey through this journal, and at the end of the day, the numbers don’t matter. If I can share this journey with even one person and you feel blessed by my sharing of the ways that God has worked to transform my life, then I give thanks to God for the sharing. If you’ve been blessed through my sharing, then please share that blessing with others in your life. Pray that God would help you to find your voice for sharing your witness to God’s grace. Through this sharing God will continue to make our lives and our world new.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Getting Our Hands Dirty
One of the great obstacles of the spiritual life in the 21st Century is the influence that is exerted by the Information Age culture that surrounds us. As education levels have increased we have become an increasingly verbal and aural culture. We have become a people of words and ideas. The explosion of information oriented technologies such as e-mail, high speed internet, text messaging, PDAs and other such tools have left us in a sea of words. What we have lost is the power of experience. In a world that is becoming increasingly virtual, we are in danger of losing the importance of the visceral experience of touching something with our own hands. Ideas and intellectual thoughts play an important role in shaping our understanding of the world, but the deepest understanding of the world can’t replace the power of experiencing the world in sight and sound and touch.
This is particularly important as we consider our life with the God we know as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Our theology does play an important role in shaping our life; but we have to remember that our relationship is not to words and ideas. Our relationship is with a person; our relationship is with the God who created us, the risen Christ who still walks among us and the Holy Spirit that continues to blow through our lives. Relationships aren’t intellectual endeavors. Relationships require that we roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty.
The life of a disciple is a hands-on life. We don’t deal with the demands of Matthew 25:31-46 by sitting back and only praying or by simply writing a check. To care for the least of these, the brothers and sisters of the King requires us to invest ourselves completely. We are called to more than polite pro-forma types of visits with the sick, the homeless, the hungry or the imprisoned. We are called to compassion, to walk with people who are in need.
This life of active discipleship begins with an active spiritual life. To have a prayer life that does more than simply recollect the needs of others is what is required. In our prayers for the sick, the needy, the marginalized, the broken and the hungry we are called to a life of prayer that identifies with their pain (to the best of our ability). We are called to recognition of the spiritual and not merely the physical dimensions of their need. When we worship we are called to not simply sit back and wait to be entertained. Worship isn’t what is done for us. The act of worship is our act (individually and collectively) of seeking out the God who encounters us in worship and reveals God’s self to us. We are called to engage in the songs, the prayers, the scripture readings, the offerings and every element of worship with the zeal of a new Christian seeking to soak in the presence of Christ with every pore of their being.
Getting our hands dirty in our own spiritual formation means that we do everything we can do to seek out experiences (beyond words and ideas) of the God who is in our midst.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Spiritual Thrill Seeking
I realize that the title itself might leave you with a bit of a disconnect. After all, it is difficult to compare spirituality with paragliding, base jumping, swimming with sharks or any other adrenaline junkie, x-games type pursuits. I look at these pursuits and can see how others might have some fun with it; and for the most part I realize that that sort of thing is generally not for me. However, over the weekend I had the good fortune to watch paragliders as I stood on the cliffs at Pacifica, CA, just south of San Francisco, and while I am not an adrenaline junkie, I must admit that there was something about watching others do it that was quite compelling. It looked so wonderfully peaceful. The people who were gliding on the currents above my head looked so happy and so free and I wondered what it would be like to be in their place. I know a few thrill seekers in my life and while I might not jump out of a plane with them, there is something about that free spirited, on-the-edge lifestyle that can be instructive for our spiritual pursuits.
It becomes so easy for us to get rooted into a very narrow routine of spirituality and experience with God. Most of us tend to be creatures of habit. We know what we like and we like what we know. We can easily become comfortable, then complacent and then largely unresponsive to new opportunities to experience God outside of our narrowly defined spirituality. In the process of this narrowing it is not just we who get narrowed, but in our mind, we begin to narrow and limit God. We lose the sense of the mystery, power and omnipotence of God. We lose the sense of the promise that God’s creative activity didn’t end with the sixth day. God continues to create, to recreate and to make all things new. God’s presence in our life, in the life of the church and in the world at large is a dynamic presence. This dynamic presence, when we allow it to happen (remember God seeks out our partnership on our own life), can and does continually shape our life, our experience, our understanding and our practice of Christ’s ministry in the world.
Growing in grace and our experience of God’s work in our life requires an ongoing spiritual awareness. Through prayer we attune our heart to God’s work. Through worship we continue to invest ourselves in God’s work in our life. Through study our understanding of how God has worked in the lives of our brothers and sisters is expanded. Through all of these, our experience of God grows and our eyes are opened and we see God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in ever deepening and broadening ways. This also means learning different ways to pray. It means learning how brothers and sisters in different traditions and at different times have prayed and deepened their experience of God. This also means seeking out powerful new ways to experience and remember our Baptism and our invitation to Christ's table in communion. It means actively participating in an ongoing and deeper quest to know God (as Father, Son and Holy Spirit) more completely. When we engage in this pursuit our faith then becomes more deeply connected, in a personal way to the risen Christ in our midst. Rather than having faith focused simply on an idea, theological concept, thought or in a long ago memory, our faith is personal, rather it is in a person (Jesus). In this deepening relationship with the risen Christ in our midst, we find that our faith is not stale, but it is animated by the very breathe of God.
So, “spiritual thrill seeking?” Why not when we are willing to cast off the comfort of the familiar we will find God in some of the most exciting, challenging and unexpected places in our life. Open up, open your eyes, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find.