1.22.15–>”Acceptance”

The Way to Serenity and Peace of Mind

Acceptance

Have you heard of this little book? And by little I mean like 5 1/4″ X 3 3/4″, and a whopping 24 pages at that. It’s quite beautiful, truthful, and life-giving. It seems a good continuation from yesterday’s thoughts to share some excerpts from this wonderful and tiny book that literal millions have found helpful for over five decades now. Who knew?

Here we go:

I don’t know how it is with you, but it took me a long time to realize that at least some of these problems were of my own making. For instance, I thought that it was my duty to solve other people’s problems, arbitrate their disputes, and show them how to live their lives. I was hurt when they rejected my unsolicited advice. I finally learned that you cannot help people unless they really need help, are willing to be helped, want you to help them, and ask you to help them. Even then, you can only help them to help themselves.

I caused myself a lot of unnecessary grief by trying to be “unselfish,” to think of everybody else first, myself last, and try to please everybody. But you can’t please everybody. You can knock yourself out doing this and that and the other thing to please “your cousins and your sisters and your aunts,” and you find out that they are not really affected one way or the other. “Please everybody, nobody’s pleased; please yourself, at least you’re pleased!” Charity begins at home, and enlightened self-interest is a basic endowment of human nature. You can save yourself a lot of grief by admitting the futility of trying to please everybody, or of trying to please somebody who just can’t be pleased.

THE SERENITY PRAYER

God grant me the

SERENITY to accept the thing I cannot change;

COURAGE to change the things I can; and

WISDOM to know the difference

Living one day at a time; Enjoying one moment at a time; Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; Taking, as He did, the sinful world as it is, not as I would have it: Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will; That I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.

1.21.15–>”Practical Spirituality–G.A.T.S.”

“Practical Spirituality”


Practical – of or concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory and ideas.

A friend of mine yesterday used this term, “Practical Spirituality.” She and her husband live by the philosophy that what you believe, you live by, and it affects your daily actual living and interrelating with others. And they live according to unconditional love. And it’s real. You feel it when you’re with them. You feel it after you leave them. You’ve been loved for who you are. They live out in practicality what they believe to be true.Their approach to life could probably be summed up with “G.A.T.S.”
~ Gratitude
~ Acceptance
~ Trust
~ Surrender
This is what they, like few others I’ve ever witnessed, live out.

Gratitude-for every single thing in their life as a gracious gift from our loving God.
Acceptance-of what is. Of reality. Of what can’t be changed by them. Therefore they never complain about the way things should be. There is no waste of time on debating on how someone should act. Just acceptance of what is beyond their control and being at peace with it. If there’s nothing you can do about something, there’s absolutely no good in expending energy wishing it was different. It just is. There may be a time for healthy grieving, but not toxic wishing.
Trust-in our benevolent, loving Creator. Total trust that He has everything ultimately, and that nothing is catching Him off guard. He is ridiculously trustworthy and we can relaxingly abandon all outcomes to Him.
Surrender-is what all of this leads to. Thankful, accepting, trusting surrender to our good and beautiful God, His Son Jesus, and Holy Spirit, always at work. Surrender is that letting go–to God’s infinitude–which is the only way to peace, serenity, and freedom. Let go.

Therefore, our Christianity becomes practical in the sense that it effectively guides how we live day to day, specifically how we treat others, and namely those closest to us. If you are not becoming more loving and forgiving, may I submit to you that you are not practicing Christianity, but rather some other religion, belief, or philosophy. Love and forgiveness is all over Scripture, what Jesus is all about. You cannot read far in Holy Scripture without being bombarded with love, forgiveness, grace, and mercy. (Did you know that the word “mercy” is used over four times more often in the Old Testament than in the New?)

Most of us don’t make the New Year’s Resolution to become more loving, but what could be more important? In the end, what matters more?

Followers of Christ will naturally become more loving, forgiving, grace-filled, merciful people. If not, you must be following someone else.

In the Name of Jesus, 
Soli Deo Gloria

1.19.15–>”Strength to Love–MLK”

This is an excerpt from Martin Luther King’s “Strength to Love” from 1963:

To our most bitter opponents we say, ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience, obey your unjust laws, because non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.’ Love is the most durable power in the world.

 

1.20.15–>”4 Years Ago Today….My New Awakening”

Jesus by the Lake and Mountains


Today marks four years since Jesus really got a hold of me and awoke my soul to a new level of Life I had never experienced before. I’ve shared this story with a few of you and alluded to it with some of you as well. So I thought on this anniversary of my new awakening, for which I am eternally grateful, I would share this deeply personal story as I wrote it in my spiritual narrative last year. A group of us went through the exercise of writing our stories, and this is the portion of my story that comes off of the very hard year of 2010 in which my dad passed away, one of my Outreach kids went to prison for 35 years, my close friend Jeff passed away, and Ana and I were not doing well. I entered 2011 depressed, and at my lowest point. And then this happened:

 

It was January 20th, 11:45 pm. I was waiting for my very close friend Miguel to arrive at my house from Michigan for a weekend visit. I decided to lie down and rest before he got there because we inevitably stay up late catching up and laughing at all things profoundly ridiculous. I didn’t want to sleep, just rest my eyes and mind for a few minutes. And in this moment I wanted God. I wanted Him more than I’ve ever wanted Him before in my life. I felt my need for Him more than ever in my extremely low state. I knew in my soul that He was the only possible real answer to my depression from the past year. I knew nothing else would work, that there is no plan B. There is God. And so I called out to Him, this nite, in a sincerer way  than ever before. Not having much capacity, I kept it simple and started praying the Jesus Prayer over and over to put all my focus and yearning on Him, “Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I cried out to Him in earnest for comfort, for help, pleading for Him alone.

And He answered.

Suddenly, I found myself in Grand Teton National Park, sitting at a lake which was at the base of a mountain. And sitting across from me on a rock, was Jesus Himself. He looked up at the mountains around us and said, “I remember when I made this, thinking we’d be having this conversation one day.” I was reverentially awestruck, unable to speak. Mouth open, it took every ounce of my available energy to slightly nod. Then He began to speak the simplest and most affirming words to me. “Rob, I love you so much.” He spoke my name. “I’ve known you for so long.” At this, the Scripture stating that “Before you were in the womb I knew you” came to mind, as if it were downloaded into me as He spoke. “I only want what’s best for you.” There was so much affirmation going on with so few words, it was unreal. Actually, it was very real. The most real. Like experiencing real for the very first time. Wanting to put to rest any doubt I still may have, He simply said, “You know I’m in control.” He then smiled at me and held up His hand. A rock flew from the ground into His hand. He was playing with me. In an instant, I felt  being totally known. I felt Him knowing my sense of humor, even, I kid you not, my love of Star Wars, and He embraced it. He embraced all of it. He embraced all of me. Everything that is me, He embraced and loved in a moment. I’ve never experienced being so known and so accepted. It was the most healing experience I’d never imagined. To be fully known and be fully accepted is the height and depth of love I believe. And that is what I felt from the Person responsible for my very existence.

Continuing His play, He threw the rock into the lake and it skipped many times side to side, defying laws of physics. He was having fun with me. Finally I was able to unlock my voice enough to actually speak, and all I could get out was, “How do you do that?!?” Seems like a ridiculous question looking back, but then came His answer which was the most penetrating takeaway of my life. He stopped, looked me in the eyes, held up His right index finger, and said, “Because, I and the Father are one,” then slowly, He pointed His finger at me, “as should you be.” It was the greatest sermon I’d ever heard. Again, a slow nod took all the strength I could muster while in the presence of the Master of the universe. Next thing I knew He and I were walking together to “go back” and I did ask, “What about dad and Jeff?” out of utter curiosity, wondering where they were and what they were doing, I guess. “Another time,” He said gently, yet firmly, letting me know that it would be too much for me right now. I got what I needed at this point and any more would be overload. Then I was back in bed next to sleeping Ana. I sat up, completely sobered by the experience, then Miguel arrived. I let him in and told him what just happened. “Whoooa, duuuuude!” he said in his classic Cuban tone. We both felt and shared the gravity of what had just occurred.
I didn’t realize it until some time later, but this experience sent me on a trajectory to pursuing God like never before, which involved a reading frenzy. About three weeks after, I finally picked up The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard, and that book started a new phase of intense study for me. I so wanted to know God. To pursue Him. To serve Him. A couple weeks later I met Dave, who would become my spiritual partner, and the next year The Ripple Effect was birthed. And along the way, Ana and I have grown closer together through Him.

Everything of the last four years has been born out of that nite of calling out to Jesus from the depths of my heart and experiencing His profound, soul-shifting, Life-giving answer to my call.

Jesus heals. This I know.

Thank You, YHWH. Thank You so much.

In the Name of Jesus, 
Soli Deo Gloria

1.18.15–>”Capacity”

Wondering, Pondering with God


A Conversation with YHWH:

Thinking about capacity. It still seems true that if we’re filled with You, that we then do not need fulfillment from others. Because our perspective has shifted. Priorities have aligned, needs are in proper order, and we see more accurately.

The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need (Psalm 23:1).

Reminds me of “The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing”, that exquisite chapter by A.W. Tozer from his great work The Pursuit of God. What about the blessedness of needing nothing from anybody because we already have it and have grasped it in You? Recognition of what already is.

Then our capacity is off the charts–like the “Saints of Old.”  We are filled with love for those who are “ugly” and can do nothing for us. Even those who hurt us. Because of our love bond with You. And what of those who can do something for us (and for themselves) but don’t? Keep loving them from our overflow of You. What else is there? Pray for them.

At some point we pursue You far enough to realize that the problem is hardly ever someone else, but me. As humbling as this is, it’s equally comforting because it is incredibly empowering. The more I fill with You, the less I need from others to feel good about myself. Then we see others more accurately because we have recognized our own brokeness. We see for the other person that it’s not so much about me as that he or she is unfulfilled on some level and feels they need “X” from me to be happy. Then I can point them more to You now that I am not paralyzed by letting him or her down, and therefore able to see them clearly. I have found that I could never gratify them to the level that their deep longings for You require.

We must guard against becoming aloof and apathetic towards others’ needs, but if we’re truly filling with You in all sincerity of heart, I don’t see how that’s possible. For You give us eyes for others’ needs.

You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.
Isaiah 26:3

In the Name of Jesus, 
Soli Deo Gloria

1.17.15–>”Think Carefully About Jesus”

Hebrews 3:1-6

So think carefully about Jesus…

This letter was written to Jewish Christians in the first century. To Jews, Moses was the man, the greatest of the prophets and revered greatly. But the author of Hebrews states that Jesus is infinitely grater than Moses, for He is Son, and Moses is mere servant of God. Holding anyone in higher regard than Jesus is like admiring a finely crafted house more than the person who designed it.

The author is making sure these Christians keep hold of the object and source of their faith–Jesus Himself. He is the High Priest forever now. He entered the presence of God as no other high priest before Him, and now invites us into that same place through Himself. Nobody else can take us there.

Holding to any law, tradition, preacher, pope, book, author, teaching, president, quarterback more than Jesus is foolishness, and will inevitably lead astray. Away from what is truth. The New Covenant we live under was sealed with the blood of Jesus Christ. It is to Him we look for everything because He is everything. He made everything, as Scripture tells us.

May we continually look to Him, the actual living person, more than anyone or anything else, as all else falls pathetically short. Soak in His presence, talk to Him, get to know Him better, and remind each other daily to do the same. Persevere in faith and in following Him. Follow nothing or no one else, for without Him, there is nothing else.

Reverence.

Simply acknowledging that Someone exists who is greater than you and is responsible for your existence. Sincerely making this acknowledgment affirms in us that no other human is greater than us and we are no greater than anyone else, for we are all on the same level–infinitely inferior to Christ. So think no one supreme to you, but think yourself supreme to no one either.

Never lose reverence for Jesus, the Son of God.

Hopefully these daily meditations point you to Him.

1.16.15–>”The Five Human Priorities”

Fantasies and Daydreams


This was fascinating from Michael Casey’s book, Toward God.

“Fantasies and daydreams have not been studied sufficiently, though they are often highly significant in pinpointing areas of vulnerability within an individual’s life. (What is still more interesting is to see the totality of daydreams embodying the cumulative aspirations of the human race.) Usually the daydream is the obverse of life: a person who is hungry fantasizes about food; one who is tired, wet and miserable dreams of a comforting bed. Our fantasies express in graphic form the need we have, though we may not be aware of its full dimensions. The five human priorities commonly manifested in daydreams tell us much about our natural yearnings.

  • We yearn to be invulnerable and beyond pain. We conjure images of our own place – an environment not alien but familiar and safe, remote from the reach of enemies and those who do not understand. When hurt too often, we long to retreat to a mountain fastness, a desert island – or even a comfortable suburban dwelling.
  • Those who belong to the “civilized world” sometimes deep down wonder what it would be like to throw off the trammels of convention and run wild. While appreciating the benefits of rationality, sometimes we would love to be uninhibited – give scope to our noble animality, be spontaneous and free, act unreflectively, and fly, unshackled by routine. “If only I had the means, I’d drop everything and make a new start.”
  • To the extent that one feels unaccepted and misunderstood, one yearns deep down to be validated and confirmed. We have a desire to be acclaimed as valuable human beings, even glorified. Freud remarks that young men are particularly prone to hero-fantasies, probably to offset the unheroic character of routine existence. Oddly, some people gain solace by daydreaming about their own funerals, where their worth is vindicated in the eyes of the multitude. If others do not give us recognition, our fantasies contrive it.
  • Acceptance, however welcome, is still not enough. We desire intimacy. We want to admit others into our space and have access to theirs. And though in daily living we may spend much time and energy keeping others at a distance, we do desire closeness. We cannot survive alone; we need companionship. Frequently, like children with no one to share their company, we conjure up a fictional friend.
  • Above all, we desire to be whole. Our lives are scattered over disparate moments of space and time. A twentieth-century person travels widely. By the end of a long life, one has made contact with hundreds of other men and women who have since gone their own way. Once they were part of our lives; now they are not, and we are poorer for it. We sometimes wish the golden moments of life could be gathered in an instant – that we could enjoy the freshness of youth and the mellowness of later years together. How pleasant it would be, as in dreams, to break down the barriers of time and move without restraint. Instead of being divided interiorly and without, our desire is to have life compressed into a single rich experience of now – containing in one moment all those personal energies that are presently fragmented. Then we would be fully alive!


Fantasies can spring from self-pity, but even then they indicate something about human sensibility. Beneath them all is our dissatisfaction with the good things of this life and our consequent longing for heaven. Whether we call it by that name, whether we give it religious connotations or not, we do yearn for a fullness of joy, and for ever. We desire to be invulnerable, without limits to freedom – spontaneous and uninhibited. In fact glory will be ours, the ultimate validation. Communion with God and with those we love will satisfy our needs of intimacy. And all our being will be gathered in one: our hearts will be pure and simple, devoid of duplicity, and our lives and loves will come together in an endless moment of total fulfillment.

Is heaven, then, simply a case of wish-fulfillment? Yes, because no wish of ours will be left unsatisfied. No, because our present hankerings are only the dimmest foreshadowings of what is to come. Our desires point to a void that God will come to fill. Meanwhile even our most spiritual words and hopes are babblings when compared with the reality to come. “Eye has not seen, nor has ear heard, nor has it risen in the human heart: what God has prepared for them that love Him.” (I Corinthians 2:9).”


In the Name of Jesus, 
Soli Deo Gloria

1.15.15–>”Feeling Felt”

“I Get It!”


Hebrews 2:18

He himself has suffered, you see, through being put to the test, and that’s why he is able to help those who are being tested right now.

When we think of the suffering of Christ, much of the time, it seems, we refer to His physical suffering. And then we try to transpose it to our own lives to find comfort in the fact that He died horribly and violently, therefore, He knows what we are going through right now. Yet most of us, thankfully, are probably not going to experience a death or physical violence anywhere near what Christ experienced.It may be good to sit and think of the other kinds of suffering He experienced in His life here among us. This morning I was ruminating on His being misunderstood. How awful it feels to be misunderstood and misrepresented. Inside we crave what Curt Thompson says is to “Feel felt.” That’s why it feels so good when we meet someone who “gets us.” They can relate and understand why you like what you like or do what you do.

At a deeper level, we seek to be validated, which is what some say is one of the five human priorities (more on that another day).

And really, no human can really get us totally. No one truly understand everything about us. Heck, we don’t understands everything about ourselves*. Which hopefully drives us to Jesus, because He does get us, everything about us. He can relate to being misunderstood. Was there anyone in history more misunderstood than this guy?

Some wanted to worship Him, some wanted to kill Him, some wanted to make Him king, some wanted to throw Him off a cliff, some wanted to follow Him to death, some wanted Him out of their town…at some point, being human, it had to affect Him in some way, people just not getting Him or what He was about, even though He was laser focused on the Father and His mission.

Here’s an imaginated conversation I had with Jesus in which He told me this story while reminiscing:

“Yeah, I remember in one small town where I was able to heal almost fifty people one day. Afterward, I turned to my left to walk to the other side of the town to see who was in need over there, and I was immediately stopped by an angry woman yelling at me. ‘Sorcerer! Fake! Get out! Get out of here! Leave us alone, magician!’ I know she was scared, but it really hurt. I just wanted to help those in need, and started to reply gently, ‘No, I just want to–‘ ‘LEAVE!’  That’s what the group of five or six men with clubs and staffs said before I could say another word. I could see there was no changing their minds or convincing them that my intentions were good. It saddened me, but I turned around and left their town. The people I healed watched, but did not defend me, as they appeared to not really understand themselves what all happened that day. Feeling very misunderstood and alone on my walk, I knew I needed to be with my Father  and fill with Him to remind me of my mission and His will for me in the midst of all this confusion. He assured me to keep on going, and that not everyone is going to accept me, get me, or know where I’m coming from. But He does. And now I do. I accept you, get you, know where you come from, and where you are going. I get being misunderstood, and it doesn’t feel good. But together, let’s keep moving forward, because I GET YOU!”

In the Name of Jesus, 
Soli Deo Gloria

*I was sharing with Ana last nite a weird thing about myself that I myself don’t quite get–that for some reason I feel it’s bad luck or something if I read the last word in a book before I read every other word leading up to it. Ridiculuous, I know in my head, yet the feeling is strong enough that it manifests in me many times covering the last word strategically with my hand until I get to the end, only to unveil that word after I’ve completely read every other word. Nobody understands me!

 

P.S. I think of the song sung by Adam Levine on a Slash album, “You just get me, like I’ve never been gotten before.”

1.14.15–>”The Examen Prayer”

Examen

This is a prayer of reflection and self-examination associated with Ignatius of Loyola and his spiritual exercises of the sixteenth century. It is quite an excellent tool for tuning in and becoming present and aware of God’s working in and throughout your day as well as growing an awareness of your own heart’s stirrings and motives. It grants spiritual clarity.

For any of you who are not familiar with it, or maybe have not looked at it in a while, here is a tiny primer and outline of it from Timothy Gallagher’s beautiful book The Examen Prayer:It is “a way of praying that opens our eyes to God’s daily self-revelation and increasingly clarifies for us our own responses to it. As this spiritual clarity grows, we gain a correspondingly greater freedom to respond and so to progress in our relationship with God. We find a path toward what our hearts most deeply desire: a growing relationship in love with God (Ps.63:1), and so with the People of God.
In our spiritual tradition, this way of praying is called the examen. Although it did not begin with him and is not unique to him, the examen is associated in a particular way with Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), who so richly experienced it and so ably taught it to others.”

An Outline of the Examen

“This outline is based on Igantius’ presentation of the examen in the Spiritual Exercises (no.43). I placed it here as an introduction to all that follows; it may also serve, once the content of this book has been assimilated, as a practical tool in praying the examen.”

Transition: I become aware of the love with which God looks upon me as I begin this examen.

Step One. Gratitude. I note the gifts that God’s love has given me this day, and I give thanks to God for them.

Step Two. Petition. I ask God for an insight and a strength that will make this examen a work of grace, fruitful beyond my human capacity alone.

Step Three. Review. With my God, I review the day. I look for the stirrings in my heart and the thoughts that God has given me this day. I look also for those that have not been given by God. I review my choices in  response to both, and throughout the day in general.

Step Four. Forgiveness. I ask for the healing touch of the forgiving God who, with love and respect for me, removes my heart’s burdens.

Step Five. Renewal. I look to the following day, and with God, plan concretely how to live it in accord with God’s loving desire for my life.

Transition: Aware of God’s presence within me, I prayerfully conclude the examen.

Traditionally this is prayed in the evening, perhaps before bed. I have also found it very helpful to pray sometime in the afternoon as a refocusing for the day. It has been a wonderful tool in fostering a greater awareness of God throughout the day in my experience, slowing me down before the day gets away and lost. Maybe it could be a helpful practice for you too!

In the Name of Jesus, 
Soli Deo Gloria

1.13.15–>”Listen More, Think Less”

 

Listen to learn.

Taking a class we really want to take or absolutely have to take, how do we listen? We listen to learn. We have to, especially the more difficult the class and subject matter. Whether it’s calculus, quantum mechanics, or molecular biology, we have to tune in in an acutely receptive manner in order to absorb the material and actually understand it. Chances are, we are not forming our own opinions about it or how the teacher should really do his or her job. Or we’re not saying to ourselves, “Quantum mechanics should behave this way!” We’re trying desperately to grasp it so that we can understand it, and therefore, move forward accordingly. According to the reality of the subject.How much more complicated and nuanced and difficult to know are people? More than even the intricately difficult subjects mentioned above? We know so little about the brain, let alone the spiritual realm and how it is influencing us at all times.

And yet how often do we listen to our fellow human beings in this reverent, open-and-ready-to-learn manner?

Not enough.

We cannot possibly know another person the tiniest fraction of how God knows them.

When we listen without judgment, expectation, or agenda, we affirm the other person. This is when we are at our very best during interpersonal interactions. Affirming someone is encouraging them in who they are. Isn’t this what God does for us? He celebrates us for who we are, not only for what we do. And how powerful is that? How inspiring? Who has been most influential on you in a positive way? Most likely, it was someone who affirmed you, believed in you. Someone who listened to you because they deemed you worthy to listen to. Conversely, one of the most degrading experiences is to not be seen or heard.

Listen to learn.

Listen in a way to actually learn about the person. Who they are, where they come from, what they believe, what they like, what makes them angry, what excites them…Listen for patterns that tell what shapes them. Listen without thinking of a thousand things while they’re talking, but only to learn. This is powerful. In a sense, you are limiting yourself.

The power of limiting yourself.

Did anyone else ever limit themselves in a powerful way? Oh yeah! God. He limited Himself in His omnipotence to become a….servant (Phil.2:5-7). He grew in wisdom and stature and knowledge. He learned. He listened to learn. So surely we can at least pretend we don’t know everything for a couple minutes while we listen to someone.

Listen without judgment, expectation, or agenda.

The more agenda-free we are, the more free we are. Listening is acceptance, the ultimate affirmation. Try to take a day to practice listening in this manner. It is quite difficult, and for some will feel foreign and nearly impossible. But you will be surprised at what you will now hear and actually learn when you stop thinking so much and you shut your big yapper!

My dear brothers and sisters, always be willing to listen and slow to speak. James 1:19

In the Name of Jesus, 
Soli Deo Gloria