Monday, March 19, 2007

Pressing on Through the Desert

Perseverance is a critical Christian value. We are reminded by Paul to persevere through the difficult times of our life when we face illness, brokenness and adversity of any sort. Paul reminds us of the powerful words of grace that inspire strength in tribulation. I've been thinking about perseverance in relation to the spiritual journey and realizing the importance of Philippians 3 where Paul encourages us to press ahead and to strain toward the goal of knowing Christ more completely.

I'm writing this posting from a mountaintop in Joshua Tree National Park. I have a beautiful view toward the community of Twentynine Palms, CA and the pristine desert valley that stretches toward the horizon before me. It is a gorgeous day and I see this as a moment of grace.

It was no easy task to get here. It required hiking through sandy washes, over rock strewn hillsides and up countless hillside switchbacks. In 90+ degree heat it was a chore to get here. All along the trail I continued to meditate on Paul's encouragement to the church to press ahead, to strain forward to knowing Christ more completely. I felt those words as encouragement on the trail. This is the first time I've ever hiked this trail, so I didn't know where I would end up, but I had the expectation that it would be excellent and that the destination would make the strain of the journey worthwhile.

Pressing ahead, straining toward the prize of knowing Christ more completely, even through the desert, is a vital practice in the spiritual life. The desert has a life and vitality of its own. Perhaps it is more barren than we might be comfortable with, but if we are willing to look beyond the surface of the seemingly barren places on our journey, we will find life and grace in unexpected places. While trekking through the arid and desert regions of my life isn't a trip I'd want to take with great frequency, I suppose God is showing me that the desert is not something to be feared or disdained.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

A Normal Day

With all of the movement and changes in my life and spirit in the last few weeks I was beginning to lose the sense of God's presence in the ordinary. The tectonic movements in my faith and self-understanding have been so large that normal, everyday days were feeling a bit dry. I suppose that this is predictable if only by comparison. I have experienced so much healing in my life and spirit that my sense of renewal is off the chart. The shadow side of the feeling of liberation with which I've been blessed is that I've found it very easy to avoid having my feet on the ground.

This week I've found the sustaining grace of God in the everyday, not in the loftiness of ecstatic experience but with my feet firmly planted on the ground. The grace in this is that it is changing my view from the street level. Even as I write this posting I've been confronted with the reality of the messiness of sin and the human condition in my work and ministry. Standing in the midst of the mire even today, I’ve had the assurance of the Spirit which has served to remind me that the transformational power of the Spirit operates at eye level as well as in the clouds.

As I reflect on my journey of faith I'm experiencing again the truth that the healing, transforming and empowering grace of God is a companion on every step of my journey. Whether God leads my journey along the heights, above the clouds, or through the mire and muck of the world I am called to be rooted in the reality of the constancy of God’s transforming work unleashed within me and in the world around me.