Jan 23

The Rhythm of Jesus

by Leave a comment

“Jesus gives us the best example of a well-paced life. In the Gospels we see Jesus retreating to be alone (nine times in the Gospel of Luke alone). Jesus lives his life in perfect rhythm, the proper tempo, at all times. He will not be

...

“Jesus gives us the best example of a well-paced life. In the Gospels we see Jesus retreating to be alone (nine times in the Gospel of Luke alone). Jesus lives his life in perfect rhythm, the proper tempo, at all times. He will not be rushed. He never does anything in haste. I love this passage in Mark’s Gospel:

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” He answered, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.” And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons. (Mark 1:35-39)

Notice the balance of contemplation and action, or, in the words of John Wesley, “piety and mercy.” Before dawn Jesus goes off to a quiet place to pray. He spends time alone with his heavenly Abba. But his disciples panic when they discover Jesus is missing, especially in light of all the work that must be done. “Where have you been?” asks Peter. Jesus simply responds, “Let’s go.” Without hesitation he proclaims the good news of the available kingdom, and demonstrates its power through signs and wonders. See the perfect balance? He rests and recreates, yet he also works and serves.

Jesus’ identity was deepened in periods of silence and solitude, in time alone with his heavenly Father. That was his secret to balancing contemplation and action, rest and labor. He knew who he was. And for those of us “in whom Christ dwells,” the rhythm should be the same. As we spend time in quiet and rest and contemplation, sitting at the feet of Jesus, we gain strength to act in wisdom in the hustle and bustle of a busy world. In slowing down we can hear the Spirit whisper that we are loved, and then we begin to reflect the glory of the Christ who is within us. We become the kind of people this frazzled and frightened world most needs.”

 

How do you avoid or resist silence and solitude? Why do you avoid it?

 

Taken from The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2009 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

Posted in Apprenticeship, Blog, Soul Training | Tags: / / / / / / / / / / /

More Less
Dec 09

Of Darkness and Silence

by Leave a comment

Dome of the Holy Sepulchre

In this season of Advent, of darkness and flickering candles, silence feels more appropriate than many words. Mystery more appropriate than explanation. Poets lead us into the heart of mystery, challenging the ways we see the world, refusing easy answers. In the midst of non-indictments, torture

...
Dome of the Holy Sepulchre

In this season of Advent, of darkness and flickering candles, silence feels more appropriate than many words. Mystery more appropriate than explanation.

Poets lead us into the heart of mystery, challenging the ways we see the world, refusing easy answers.

In the midst of non-indictments, torture reports, holiday blues, the stark cold darkness of this season, sit with these words, look for the light.

Mosaic of the Nativity: Serbia, Winter, 1993

On the domed ceiling God
is thinking:
I made them my joy,
and everything else I created
I made to bless them.
But see what they do!
I know their hearts
and arguments:

“We’re descended from
Cain. Evil is nothing new,
so what does it matter now
if we shell the infirmary,
and the well where the fearful
and rash alike must
come for water?”

God thinks Mary into being.
Suspended at the apogee
of the golden dome,
she curls in a brown pod,
and inside her mind
of Christ, cloaked in blood,
lodges and begins to grow.

–Jane Kenyon

**The Annunciation, Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898

**The Annunciation, Henry Ossawa Tanner, 1898

Posted in Blog | Tags: / / / / / / / /

More Less
Nov 12

Which Path To Take?

by Leave a comment

railroad tracks

Two hours of silence. That was the assignment at the Apprentice Experience last week. Two hours with no one to talk to. No phone to check social media. No books to read. No TV to veg out in front of. Just some good old fashioned

...
railroad tracks

Two hours of silence. That was the assignment at the Apprentice Experience last week.

Two hours with no one to talk to. No phone to check social media. No books to read. No TV to veg out in front of.

Just some good old fashioned silence.

Jan Johnson gave some great instruction to begin our time, the most memorable of which was: “Don’t try to do anything holy, that will ruin it.”

So, I set out with the other participants and tried to find space on the retreat property to spend my time.

I didn’t know where I was going, no destination in mind (I hadn’t been on the grounds before).

So, I just walked, and walked. First along a pond, then I stumbled upon a sign “Nature trail this way.”

That didn’t sound too holy, so I followed the sign.

I just kept walking. One foot in front of the other.

Slow.

Measured.

Steps.

I had two hours to fill (with nothing) after all.

I did match a breath prayer to my steps (Show me your path; use me), which felt a little holy, but I justified it because it slowed down my pace.

Anyway, back to the trail. It was a winding path, first through a grass pasture. There were multiple forks in the path. With little thought as to where I’d end up (there wasn’t a map), I simply turned one direction or the other.

Groundbreaking, right?

Just making minor decisions. But I’m an indecisive person, ask my wife. I’ll spend twenty minutes in the toothpaste aisle reading all the different attributes of competing brands, just to make the “best” decision.

But on that day, I just walked.

Through out my time, I enjoyed some diverse settings. Different sections of the path were covered with a variety of berries and flowers. Tall trees here, simple grass there. A dried up pond.

And probably some things I missed, because I chose not to go down one path or the other.

As I reflected back on the time, I realized how freeing it was just to follow along that path. And how little I refuse to follow on this big path of life with God. Instead of just looking at the next choice or decision as what it is, a choice or decision, I make it into a life or death situation.

I’m more like Augustine, just before his conversion.

Augustine looked back at his life of pleasure and self-gratification, and you know what? He didn’t want to leave it. Not quite yet. The decision seemed to much. To pursue this whole life with God thing would force him to leave that other life behind. To choose one fork over another.

But, a voice called to Augustine, “Why do you try to stand in your own strength and fail? Cast yourself upon God and have nor fear. He will not shrink away and let you fall.” (Confessions, quoted in Devotional Classics, Foster and Smith, 58)

Whatever the next decision I make today or this week, it isn’t the end of the story. Sure, I may never know what might have been along the other path, but it’s not the end of the road. After all, we follow a God who brings life out of death.

So, I’m trying to walk slower and with measured steps, allowing the decisions to follow to come more easily. It’s more art than science. More joyful than stressful.

I don’t know where I’ll end up, but I do know I don’t walk alone.

Posted in Blog | Tags: / / / / /

More Less
Oct 08

Of God and the Crowd: Who’s Winning In Your Life?

by Leave a comment

crowd gathers for updates to 1920 world series

Ever read something you just can’t shake? An idea that lingers for days or weeks? That’s how Alan Fadling’s chapter “Unhurried Enough To Pray” has been for me this week (from An Unhurried Life). The jumping off text is Mark 1. Jesus has just been baptized and

...
crowd gathers for updates to 1920 world series

Ever read something you just can’t shake?

An idea that lingers for days or weeks?

That’s how Alan Fadling’s chapter “Unhurried Enough To Pray” has been for me this week (from An Unhurried Life).

The jumping off text is Mark 1. Jesus has just been baptized and called the disciples, then he goes on a marathon journey of healing and driving out evil spirits. He even heals Simon’s mother-in-law, and continues healing into the evening. According to Mark, “The whole city was gathered around the door” (1:33).

Jesus is doing some impressive work, but it’s a lot of work.

And, he’s fully human, right? So he had to be pretty exhausted, but regardless of how little sleep he got that night, Fadling notes verse 35: “In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”

He didn’t hit the snooze button. Didn’t phone it in. But he also didn’t rush out to the crowds (not that there would be much of a crowd at that hour).

He went out to pray. While it was dark. After a day of doing.

Accorded to the NRSV, Jesus hid so well that the disciples went out and hunted for him.” “Everyone is searching for you.”

C’mon Jesus. People want to see you!

And Jesus goes. He doesn’t shoo them away and ask for a few more minutes. But here’s where Fadling’s insight just bowled me over. He didn’t sleep in and go straight to the crowds. He went out to pray, to spend time with the Father.

I’ve heard about Jesus’ time alone in prayer countless, but for some reason this week it really stuck.

When I think about being transformed into the image of Christ, I think mostly about doing the things Jesus did (mostly service at church or in the community kind of things).

But what if one of Jesus’ most important doings was more about being?solitude

Fadling writes: “What if following him [Jesus] is about more than just doing the kinds of things he did in ministry…? What if following Jesus is also about living life in relationship with the Father just as Jesus himself did? When I think about how Jesus often got away to quiet places to enjoy the presence of his Father, I’m drawn to follow Jesus there, too.” (93.2)

But so much of the time that just seems like a waste of time. Going away, being present to God.

No one sees that, no one takes notice. No church newsletter has a feature about Phyllis who spent time in solitude this month. They feature the canned food drive, the mission trip, opportunities to lead a small group. All good things.

The crowd-pleasing disciples were in the same boat, “But Jesus seemed more interested in rising early to focus on the Father and on his work. This passion got Jesus up early. The disciples, on the other hand, were more moved by the expectations of the crowd. For them, the crying needs of the crowd seemed to drown out the Father’s quiet invitation.” (94.4-95)

The crowds are loud, the crowds are big, there’s a time and place to go to the crowds, even Jesus knew that, “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do” (1:38).

But making space for God is crucial, too.

And though God is present just like the crowds, God won’t shout at you or demand. The voice will continue to call, waiting for a response, for you to rise early (or stay up late you night owls) and come away, just to be.


What in your life has drowned out God’s quiet invitation? The good work you do to serve the needs of the crowds? An overly full schedule? Just slipped your mind?

Posted in Blog, Soul Training | Tags: / / / / / / / / / /

More Less
Aug 18

The One Thing Your To-Do List is Missing

by Leave a comment

Driving into work this morning was a new experience. Back story: Last week I was on the beach with my family. Nothing was required of me, really. Sure there was food to prepare and suncreen to apply, but past that I spent a single-minded week

...

Driving into work this morning was a new experience.

Back story: Last week I was on the beach with my family. Nothing was required of me, really. Sure there was food to prepare and suncreen to apply, but past that I spent a single-minded week sitting on the beach.

Ok, you can be jealous. But this morning, I’m back in front of a screen like much of the world.

A mundane thing happened while I was gone. Wichita and surrounding schools went back in session. Which meant the lighter summer morning traffic was gone and back were the packed roads (Ok, so it’s not LA, but still).

The roads aren’t the only thing filling up.

This time of year all of life gets full. Sure summers have become a time of increasing activity and camps for kids. But even for those of us who work year round, when school gets back in session, life gets busy.

Now there are after school practices, music lessons, tutoring, and parent-teacher conferences to shuttle kids to.

Even if you’re not caught up in those games, your church is probably asking for volunteers to teach a Sunday school class or help out with a new Wednesday night ministry.

All the major TV networks will be rolling out their new fall line-ups soon, each vying for your eyes and time.

And of course there’s the regular rhythm of bathrooms to clean, yards to mow, bills to pay, and meals to prepare.

If you’re one of the few who isn’t as busy as the next person, you might even convince yourself that you are: “How’s everything at work?” “Oh, staying busy, always something to do.”

Whether your busyness is real or imagined. Meaningful or life draining. Taking time for the spiritual life can seem like a Herculean effort.

Read the Bible, pray, serve, go to church, attend a conference, read that devotional book that’s gathering dust on your nightstand.busy pedestrians

So

much

to

do.

Really, Just One Thing

As the calendar turns to school time, whether you’re in school or not, a great thing to do would be to take control of your time, to write a rule of life. A rule of life is just a few things you commit to doing, practices that feed your body and soul, as well as those around you.

That would be great, but don’t do that.

Because it’s just another thing to do on your already growing list. Couched somewhere between coffee and spinach on the grocery list.

Instead of a rule of life, change one thing.

One thing, every single day. Seek first the kingdom.

Yeah, you’ve heard that before. Yeah it sounds easy. But it’s not.

Because you just read “seek first the kingdom” and thought, what all does that entail? Group bible study, hours in prayer, hours in service? I don’t have time to fit that in.

You heard requirements. But that phrase is an invitation to relationship.

A relationship with God that transforms the rest of your life. It won’t cause you to quit doing all those things that keep you so busy (though sometimes this is good and necessary), but it will transform the way you engage with people and activities in your life.

The journey of spiritual formation doesn’t take you out of the world to a radical community on the fringes of society. It transforms you into the kind of person who finds sufficiency in the kingdom of God, and then, the rest.

And you’re wondering how to seek first the kingdom. Which is a great impulse. And the answer: listen. (I wrote about my experience learning about the importance of listening, but it’s still sinking in.)

Today, as I look at the growing list of things to be done and to catch up to do after a week on the beach (feel sorry for me), I realize seeking first the kingdom is the one that makes the rest make sense.

Not in a quick fix, everything is clear kind of way. But in a slow, over time, 5-10 minutes of silence and listening kind of way.

Don’t write your rule of life. Don’t start twenty books about the best thing to do with your life with God.

Seek first the kingdom, in silence, for five or ten minutes a day. Maybe it’s on your drive, maybe it’s in a closet, maybe it’s in your room, maybe it’s on a walk.

I don’t know, that’s for you to decide, but it’s the only thing you need to do as you get back into the rhythm of the school year (student, teacher, or not).

If you don’t believe me, give it a shot. What’s the worst that can happen, I’m wrong?

 

**Featured Image Photo Credit: To Do List by Mufidah Kassalias / CC ND

 

Posted in Blog, Soul Training | Tags: / / /

More Less
12
Back to top

Sign Up

Nam ut dolor at erat dignissim pellentesque. Aliquam erat volutpat.