Viewing entries tagged
Holy Spirit

Heaven rising.

Heaven rising.

John Paton was an American missionary living in what is now the island country of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. During a dry season, the missionary awakened the curiosity (and the laughs) of the natives by DIGGING (?!?!) for water. They insisted water always came down from heaven, not up through the earth. But Paton revealed a larger truth than they had seen before by discovering that heaven could give them water through their own land. 

Some insist on waiting for God to send down answers, guidance, help and blessings from heaven in some super-normal way.  In his book, The Meaning of Prayer, Harry Emerson Fosdick tells this story, then makes this point: While God provides an abundant supply, we must learn to retreat into the fertile places of our own spirit where, as Jesus said, the wells of living waters seek to rise. “Mining" for heaven on earth attempts to dig for deeper levels of trust and obedience. It’s being willing to ‘un-earth’ the Spirit’s prompts that invite us to respond to a need, an opportunity, a stranger, or a neighbor, and the church.

As citizens of heaven living on earth, we awaken an imagination for the hope of something better. The New Normal has been a way to experiment with planting small seeds of heaven, here & now. But the hope is this will create a new normal for the way you combine faith into daily and normal life.

Becoming.

Becoming.

My uncle David is a bit of a Renaissance man - bright, resourceful, well traveled, with an array of interests. He’s one of the people I like to listen to ‘think out loud”. I once asked him an open-ended question, “What Advice would you give to an 18-yr old leaving home?” Without hesitation, “I’d say, ‘Manage who you become!’Life’s like a train station and opportunities are moving in and out. You need to choose opportunities that cultivate health, faith, education, interests, character, and disciplines. For instance, you don’t need to worry about all A’s on exams. If you get a B but understand the material, it’s okay! Don’t over-emphasize academics and miss out on other valuable opportunities to develop”. Impressed with his insight, I pushed further, “What advice to a young couple for marriage?” Again, without hesitation, he said plainly, “Oh, it might be too late.” What?!?!  He continued, “If you haven’t managed who you want to become, it’ll be a difficult few years of undoing and re-learning.”

Like a good artist, Paul paints in a similar contrast: “Be very careful, then, how you live…not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity” (Eph.5:15-18). In other words, the foolish person has no strategy, plan, or practice for life and faith. Without a plan, one will only miss opportunity to live for God in an evil environment. He’s instructing them on how to live in light of their new identity. To do so, he talks about being wise and making the most of every opportunity.

Here’s where it gets interesting: In Exodus 31:2-5 we find God’s people saved from slavery in Egypt. God’s forming a covenant to live in light of their new spiritual identity. “See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri…3 and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 4 to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5 to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts.

Did you catch it??? The basis for wisdom in the bible is not IQ or how smart you are. You don’t need advanced degrees to be an artisan! You just have to be good. And to get good, you do it a lot!  In this case, God is animating a skill set through this guy.

Regardless of your day job, Wisdom is a skill you cultivate by bringing potential out of something.  Apparently, God takes great joy investing His personal presence to inspire us to create great things! The Spirit is the bible’s way of describing the personal rapport you hold with Jesus, we can sense him in our midst, especially as we bless others with our skill. We’re challenged to ‘Manage who we become’ with the Spirit’s help! The more we respond, yield, &/or turn to the prompts of God’s Spirit, the more our lives are transformed. That sounds like heaven on earth. That sounds like the beginnings of a new normal.

A Storied Life.

A Storied Life.

The power of story captures even the most distracted of us! We cheer for underdogs and relate to ‘against all odds’. We love the timing of dialogue in the heat-of-a-moment. We savor (& binge) on story that paint pictures, weaves emotion, and invests us to outcomes. A screenwriter friend described what makes a gripping story is the development of a character. “To be interesting…”, he says as he leans forward over his coffee, “a person needs to go through something... something interesting or intense. The difference between an ‘extra' and a principal actor is what we see when a character goes through challenge. It can be attractive or repulsive. Either way, it's what makes the story." 

God’s story in us, that is a living faith, develops the same way. We grow as we’re forced or required to endure. And the secret ingredient to transformation is the Holy Spirit present within us. Given our access to education, industry, healthcare, and line of credit…it doesn’t seem to require faith to put a roof over our heads and food on the table. To be sure, God graciously provides but it’s easy to see my success, determination, and common sense exclusively tied to my strength. Yet, faith unfolds when we CANNOT see a way we can humanly make it happen. Faith works when we respond to the prompts to help, give, stop, receive, or turn. Faith is about learning how to love another in a world full of self-promotion and preservation. And, in the midst struggle and prosperity, within the mundane and the busyness – faith lives when believe that God sees, loves, redeems and restores. 

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws”. (Ez.36:26-27)

Here’s to our story becoming God’s Story and a Living Faith!

Under the Influence

Under the Influence

We’ve all seen, cringed, &/or probably laughed at alcohol’s effects. In a social experiment called 3 Glasses Project, a photographer captured the curious results after 1, 2 & 3 glasses of wine. We even have language to describe its influence: “liquid courage”, “take the edge off”, or “drown my sorrows”. And, of course, people under the influence are also prone to being louder, laughter, and affectionate.

Maybe, the way we relate to alcohol can offer us an idea of how we’re supposed to relate to the influence of Holy Spirit. We find clarifying moments in scripture apart from alcohol’s effects.

When it comes to being “under the influence” in the Christian life, it means we receive the Spirit’s guidance and strength. Not unlike alcohol, the infilling work of the Spirit provides the ability to step out in faith to do what doesn’t always come naturally.

Take compassion. It’s hard to be too concerned for homeless, cancer, unemployment, war, immigrants, mental illness, violence, abuse… UNLESS it personally affects us. Yet, when we sense the Holy Spirit at work in us (despite fear, discomfort, or convenience) the fruit of compassion always grows.

LENT / TGIF for FRI, Mar.30th: Practice Compassion. Find simple ways to express empathy.

  1. ray about what limits your empathy & compassion…fear, time, interest? Pray for eyes to see & meet a need that’s different than your own.
  2. Make a care package and give to someone you love or needs it.
  3. Do something for someone that they hate doing themselves.
  4. Let someone go in front of you in line or traffic.

 

Prototype for Shelter

Prototype for Shelter

Being a single mother used to carry more of a social stigma. Now it feels fairly common or even acceptable. 2000 yrs ago, if you’re unmarried & pregnant, it could get you killed depending on how you interpret Levitical law. In Luke 1, Elizabeth was married, without kids, “past-her-prime” but finds herself pregnant with John the Baptist. She’s got morning sickness and chores. She’s moving slow and more tired. Despite all that, Elizabeth becomes a prototype for hospitality in giving shelter to a marginalized girl-on-the-run.

Elizabeth and Zechariah were in good standing. Yet, she finds it in heart to offer shelter to Mary – pregnant but not wed. Imagine the looks, the whispers, the risk to their social status. And yet, compassion to those on the margins is God’s calling for every Christian. We don’t show compassion because we have so much. We do it because we’re no different. 

History is filled with people who lived fully in God’s story…AND it was disruptive. Curiously, it’s called ‘Good News’. We all have days of peace, moments of joy, expressions of grace, feelings of gratitude — These are foretastes of heaven. They wet our appetite for God’s salvation, love, and intent. But, to be sure: following Christ is disruptive. (Anyone with a houseful of guest for the Holidays knows how disruptive hospitality can feel.)

Hebrews 13:2 says “make sure you practice hospitality, you may be entertaining angels.” Like Elizabeth, God’s chosen each of us extend hospitality. Sometimes we make room. Other times, we are learn to receive. In either case, it’s means we see who God’s prepared in advance for us. When we do this, God transforms us in ways we couldn’t imagine. Here’s to seeing Elizabeth’s story as our own!