Tuesday, April 25, 2017

From Strength to Strength...What Will Come Out if Someone Bumps into You?

This evening I was present at a lovely dinner and gathering.  As part of the program, these questions were asked:

“How is your soul?” 
“Inside, are you a person of peace?” 
“When someone bumps into you, what will come out?”
We were reminded that Jesus purposefully took care of His soul:
     “…large crowds were gathering to hear Him and be healed of their sicknesses.  But
Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.”  Luke 5:15-16 NASB

Jesus also was diligent in the care of His disciples’ souls:
     “And He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a      while.  (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)  They went away in the boat to a secluded place by themselves.” 
​     Mark 6:31-32 NASB

Dear friends, how are your souls this beautiful spring day?  Are you at peace?  Are you interacting with those around you from a position of fullness?   If so, what would come out if someone were to bump into you?  Seriously!

There is a beautiful spiritual practice that will allow you to keep watch over the state of your soul.  It is called an Examen and is a very simple little tool to inventory your day.  While the evening is the best time for the daily practice, it may also be used to pray about any other meaningful time period (such as a week or a year); or about a distinct event that has taken place.
Here's the important part!  The Examen restores your focus on God, looking for and celebrating His Presence and action in your day and in your life.  It is not an examination of conscience that actually places the focus on yourself and how you have fallen short.  Oh, the Lord may highlight something that needs repentance and forgiveness, but He will also reveal how His love was active in your life.  Why  don’t you give it a try?  I could be life changing.

Allow between five and fifteen minutes for the daily Examen.  It is meant to be very flexible.
​1.  Pray for God’s help.
     Just relax and invite the Lord to “be” with you during this time.
     It is wise to choose a Scripture and focus on the Words.
     Take deep breaths and let yourself see your day as God sees it.

2.  Give thanks for the gifts of the day.
     Review the day and name the blessings – significant and obvious; common and ordinary.
     Honor the gifts of others and recognize the gifts in you.
     Ask Him: 
          Where was/is Your love Lord?
          Where was it active today?
          Where is it leading?

3.  Pray over significant feelings that surface as You replay the day.
     Look for interior movements:  joy or sad; pleasing or painful; subtle or strong. 
     Pick one or two and ask the Lord:
          Help me understand what aroused those feelings, Lord, and where did they lead me?
          Show me if they drew me closer to You, or did they lead me away from You?

Rejoice (in times you were brought closer to God); and seek forgiveness (for times when you resisted God’s Presence).

5.  Look to Tomorrow:  invite Him to be a part of your sleep and your tomorrow.
“O Lord, You have searched me and known me!  You Know when I sit down and when I rise up;  You understand my thoughts from afar….How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!  How vast is the sum of them!...”   Psalm 139: 1-2, 17
Resources for Going Deeper:
​​"The Way of Discernment: Spiritual Practices for Decision Making" by Elizabeth Liebert

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

From Strength to Strength...What is Your Sacred Pathway?

Dear Friends,

This Holy Week I am spending much time in the Gospels following the footsteps of Jesus as He went to the cross for you and for me, and as He rose from the grave in victory.  I am struck by the apparent regularity of Jesus’ choice of places to “be”, not only with His own, but also with His Father in prayer.

After sharing that last beautiful Passover meal with His disciples, John tells us:  “When He had finished praying, Jesus left with His disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley.  On the other side there was an olive grove (the garden of Gethsemane), and He and His disciples went into it.  Now Judas, who betrayed Him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples.”    John 18: 1-2
“Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives and His disciples followed Him.”  Luke 22:39

As I pondered this, I remembered a powerful “read” that had highlighted the importance of recognizing our particular choices of “sacred space” when we do seek the heart of God.  In “Sacred Pathways” by Gary Thomas, the author explores nine spiritual temperaments that essentially are predispositions that we have in relating to God.
Naturalists prefer the outdoors desiring to leave buildings and books behind in their desire to seek God in nature.  They are conscious of Jesus by the Galilee, looking up at Zacchaeus who had climbed the sycamore tree and picturing Jesus healing the man born blind by the pool of Siloam.

Sensates delight in loving God through their five senses, escaping into magnificent worship or art.  These are thresholds to effective inroads to their hearts.

Traditionalists love God through ritual and symbol and structure.  Liturgy is the path to greater “depth and texture” in their walk with the Lord.

Ascetics love God in solitude and simplicity, desiring very little more than to be left alone in His Presence and to seek Him through prayer.

Activists love God through confrontation and desire more than anything to stand against evil and actively participate in experiences that will call sinners to repentance.
Caregivers love God by loving others.  They experience His Presence in feeding the hungry, housing the homeless and caring for the diseased.
Enthusiasts love God to the fullest with celebration and desire to know, experience, feel and be moved by strong concepts of their Lord.

Contemplatives love God through adoration, content to be at the feet of Jesus like Mary of Bethany.

Intellectuals love God with their mind and passionately desire to study and share concepts, being fed by the gifts of receiving new insights into the Heart of God.
Most of us are combinations of these basic pathways.  One way to determine your primary bent is to list Christians whom you most admire and seek to emulate.  This will give you a clue as to your wiring.  Another way is to read the book and answer the little six-question survey identifying each type.  It really is quite fascinating.
Dear friend, why might this be important?
Jesus told the lawyer: “…Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself“  Luke 10:27.   Understanding your personalized sacred pathway will not only spur you on to break out of a spiritual rut, but also it will help you to find your own personal “sacred space” to love Him fully.
Each day Jesus was teaching at the temple, and each evening He went out to spend the night on the hill called the Mount of Olives”  Luke 21:37.  
Resources for Going Deeper:
​​"Sacred Pathways, Discover Your Soul's Path to God" by Gary Thomas