Revisiting A Testament Of Devotion

In this my “Year of Review”, I have utterly enjoyed revisiting some readings which have been the most influential on me. There are a few not-so-long books that I have read, digested, and absorbed which are so very pithy that I chose not to even take the cap off my highlighter, for every single word is such gold and worthy of highlighting, that there was no point to do so. One such book which I am re-reading right now is A Testament Of Devotion by the 20th century Quaker Thomas Kelly, published in 1941.

I think I had somewhat forgotten just how much this little work has shaped me. Spending time in it again after several years away from it has gloriously reminded me of the deep resonance I originally felt with it, as well as the beautiful language therein which I adopted as wonderfully accurate descriptions of the Christ life.

Some books come along which present a bare-bones distillation of the Gospel, give the core truth of Christ, and the foundation of our faith so well and with no fluff, that you feel as if you could simply lodge there for many years and be absolutely content and better off for it. A central and repeated message of this particular book is the vital importance of listening to the living, speaking Spirit every moment in all circumstances.

So of course I need to give you an example, and I shall give a somewhat lengthy excerpt which I read last week and have been marinating in. This is from the chapter entitled “The Eternal Now and Social Concern”. For context sake, Kelly has been writing about how our sense of time is shifted after we truly discover that God is present in each moment, how right now holds eternity. Oh how poignantly lovely!

But now let us examine the ordinary experience of time, unrevised by this great discovery of the Eternal Life springing up within it. The ordinary man, busy earning a living, exercises care, caution, foresight. He calculates probabilities. He studies the past in order to predict and control the future. Then when he has weighed all his factors and plotted the outcome, with energy and industry he wills himself into persistent activity along the lines of calculated wisdom.

And much religious work is carried on in just this same way. With shrewd and canny foresight religious people study the past, examine all the factors in the situation which they can foresee, and then decide what is wisest to undertake, or what is most congruous with the Christian life described in the Gospels. Then they breathe a prayer to God to reinforce their wills and keep them strong in executing their resolve.

In this process, time spreads itself out like a ribbon, stretching away from the now into the past, and forward from the now into the future, at the far end of which stands the New Jerusalem. In this ribbon of time we live, anxiously surveying the past in order to learn how to manage the most important part of the ribbon, the future. The now is merely an incidental dividing point, unstable, non-important, except as by its unstaying migration we move ahead into the richer meadows and the greener pastures of the future. This, I fear, is the all-too-familiar world of all too many religious men and women, when a deeper and a richer experience is possible.

The experience of Divine Presence changes all this familiar picture. There come times when the Presence steals upon us, all unexpected, not the product of agonized effort, and we live in a new dimension of life. You who have experienced such plateaus of glory know what I mean….The sense of Presence!

In the immediate experience of the Presence, the Now is no mere nodal point between the past and the future. It is the seat and region of the Divine Presence itself. No longer is the ribbon spread out with equal vividness before one, for the past matters less and the future matters less, for the Now contains all that is needed for the absolute satisfaction of our deepest cravings. Why want, and yearn, and struggle, when the Now contains all one could ever wish for, and more? The present Now is not something from which we hurriedly escape, toward what is hoped will be a better future. Instead of anxiety lest the future never yield all we have hoped, lest we fail to contribute our full stint before the shadows of the evening fall upon our lives, we only breathe a quiet prayer to the Now and say, “Stay, thou art so sweet.” Instead of anxiety lest our past, our past defects, our long-standing deficiencies blight our well-intentioned future efforts, all our past sense of weakness falls away and we stand erect, in this holy Now, joyous, serene, assured, unafraid. Between the relinquished past and the untrodden future stands this holy Now, whose bulk has swelled to cosmic size, for within the Now is the dwelling place of God Himself. In the Now we are at home at last….

Instead of being the active, hurrying church worker and the anxious, careful planner of shrewd moves toward the good life, we become pliant creatures, less brittle, less obstinately rational. The energizing, dynamic center is not in us but in the Divine Presence in which we share. Religion is not our concern; it is God’s concern. The sooner we stop thinking we are the energetic operators of religion and discover that God is at work, as the Aggressor, the Invader, the Initiator, so much the sooner do we discover that our task is to call men to be still and know, listen, hearken in quiet invitation to the subtle promptings of the Divine. Our task is to encourage others first to let go, to cease striving, to give over this fevered effort of the self-sufficient religionist trying to please an external deity. Count on God knocking on the doors of time. God is the seeker, and not we alone; He is anxious to swell out our time-nows into an Eternal Now by filling them with a sense of Presence. I am persuaded that religious people do not with sufficient seriousness count on God as an active factor in the affairs of the world. “Behold I stand at the door and knock,” but too many well-intentioned people are so preoccupied with the clatter of effort to do something for God that they don’t hear Him asking that He might do something through them. We may admire the heaven-scaling desires of the tower-builders on the Plain of Shinar, but they would have done better to listen and not drown out the call from heaven with the clang of the mason’s trowel and the creaking of the scaffolding.

Point of No Return?

For once people have been enlightened–when they’ve tasted the heavenly gift and have had a share in the holy spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the coming age–it’s impossible to restore them again to repentance if they fall away, since they are crucifying God’s son all over again, on their own account, and holding him up to contempt. ~HEBREWS 6:4-6

Thankfully, this is not a controversial or particularly complex passage of Scripture in the least bit…

Ok, ok, so it’s one of the most difficult ever. Let’s dive in.

The first point to note is who these verses are specifically written to. This is for those who have tasted of the goodness of Life with God. It’s not for those who have merely dabbled, but those who have fully experienced the abundant life God offers and then turned away from it. The 4-syllable word for this is apostasy.

Instead of getting all controversial and attempting to define precisely what the unpardonable sin is, or just exactly who’s in and who’s out, it seems to me that we can use this passage more effectively for it’s likely intent: to spur us on to keep growing in our relationship with Christ and advance onward into the richer experience of the Spirit-drenched life.

Here, in my observation, is the basic take-away from Luke Timothy Johnson, one of my favorite scholarly commentators [Schommentalor?]:

Not moving forward is the same as falling backward. Failure to grow is tantamount to regression.

That, to me, is our poignant warning.

The old Interpreter’s Bible puts it flatly: “The danger is acute. If they will not advance, they are in danger of apostasy. Once over that cliff, nothing remains but death.” Similarly, Andrew Murray wrote that “Anything like sloth, and resting content in our beginnings, is unspeakably dangerous.”

Are you maturing?

Are you deeper in intimate relationship with God than you were ten years ago?

Are you a more loving person today than when you were a new Christ-follower?

Andrew Murray offers a succinct self-test: “The only sure mark of our being true Christians, of our really loving Christ, is the deep longing and the steady effort to know more of Him.”

Here’s more from schommentalor LTJ to give some deeper context:

The effect of apostasy is so devastating because of the extraordinary character of the gift received and the cost to Christ of its giving…The main point is perfectly straightforward: the enormity of apostasy is measured by the greatness of the experience of God it abandons. That is why it is impossible to “renew to repentance” people who have proven capable of turning away from their own most powerful and transforming experience.

Sitting in extended silence with this passage, here is what rose to the surface, which I trust and hope is from the Holy Spirit, the Great Wind of God:

What is the most offensive offense to Jesus? Not enjoying Him, or His gifts, Presence, life with Him, being Spirit-led. That is the greatest mockery. Behind every sin, every evil act, is the ignoring of Abundant Life offered. You think of what God has done to show us His unfathomable love and care for us: Becoming one of us–human! Serving, learning, dying cruelly, all for breaking down every possible barrier to enjoy being together. You taste of that beautiful life of Spirit-intimacy, and then turn away from it? Pursue other “gods”? It will be most difficult to turn back. Darn near impossible. Literally impossible? As it seems to imply here in Hebrews 6? Oh God, I pray not!

Jesus Learned Obedience Through Suffering [part 3]

Once more, let’s travel just a little further down this staircase of mystical truth. I say “once more” because we will keep in Trinitarian Spirit and close this meditation out with three parts. (Otherwise this will turn into one of those 17 month sermon series on Lamentations like I sat through growing up :D)

In continuing to reflect upon what we talked about last time, with regard to that aspect of suffering which results from the learning of new ideas that necessarily causes the death of old ones, my thoughts were drawn to Jesus’s famous “Sermon on the Mount”. Specifically, I pondered Jesus’s refrain, “You have heard that it was said…But I say to you…” How long did it take Jesus to develop these thoughts? To formulate these ideas and make them presentable in this memorable manner? How much searching and pondering he must have done!

In his incomprehensibly loving incarnation, Jesus went through the process of internalizing the Scriptures, and also spent time observing how they were playing out externally in real life. It’s interesting to note that his public ministry did not begin when he was 10, or even 20. Why is this interesting? Well, if he had held on to his omniscience as a human on earth, he very well could have begun his brilliant teachings when he was, say, 5 years old. Heck, he could have started as soon as he was able to talk I guess, at 2-ish, right?

But he had to learn. He had to learn because he really took on human form and mind and heart and limitations, identifying with us at the quantum level. At 12 years old he was listening and asking questions of the religious leaders, not instructing them (Luke 2:42). Afterward he went home with his parents and was obedient to them (v.51). This is the one childhood example we have of him learning what it means to obey. He learned what was involved with obedience the way any of us do–by the experiences of life.

Here is a provocative word from a Bible reference book called Hard Sayings of the Bible that kind of took me aback:

there are some things that even God can experience only by becoming a human being with all of our human limitations. Obedience in the face of suffering is one of them.

Jesus memorized, studied, and prayed the Hebrew Scriptures, always seeking his Father and His will in them. He then took note of how the religious people were interpreting them and living them. That was not always pretty, as we know.

So when the time was right, he delivered his big sermon, showing the people of his day, and us, what we’ve all heard before, and in contrast, what God’s heart truly is. He showed us where we have strayed from the agape of God and missed the point of it all.

There had to be some suffering involved with this process. The ancient Greeks had a saying–Mathein Pathein–Learning is suffering. Suffering is learning. Surely it broke Jesus’s heart to see the holy teachings being misused; to witness poor, oppressed, and broken-hearted people not being cared for properly. Then there was the volatile opposition from the synagogue leaders who claimed to be on his Father’s side! Stressful indeed.

Jesus saw how we humans desperately try to define the undefinable, to tame it, and box it up; how we tend to attach ourselves to systems more than God. We systematize the mystery out of religion, out of GOD. Adopting systems of theology, abiding in them, leads us away from intimacy with our Lord. Jesus said, “Abide in ME.” How quickly do systems replace personal interaction with the Divine. Dogma swallows up prayer. Letting go of techniques is tough. You may have to sacrifice familiar and comfortable teachings for….the Voice–the Spirit speaking now. We of course have boundaries, and follow the teachings of Jesus and Holy Scripture, but we must fight the urge to define it all in the neatest little package that is never again opened. When did Jesus ever say the narrow gate would be a conveniently systematized, easily defined formula? If anything, he taught the opposite with his parables showing just how undefinable, and awesome, the Kingdom of God really is (see Mt.13).

It’s no wonder so many people these days say, “I’m spiritual, not religious.” With so much institutionalizing of the mystery, joy, and care for people, animals, and earth out of everything, can you blame them?

Alrighty then, let’s try to bring this back around full circle. Matthew Henry said in his commentary on Hebrews 5:8 that “We need affliction, to teach us submission.” And William Barclay, in his commentary on our verse, wrote, “God speaks to [us] in many experiences of life, and not least in those which try [our] hearts and souls. But we can hear his voice only when we accept in reverence what comes to us. If we accept it with resentment, the rebellious cries of our heart make us deaf to the voice of God.”

We follow the living Presence of God, brought to us by Jesus, and available now in the Spirit. Mathein pathein. We learn through suffering–when we submit to the Voice. Submission is the soul’s silence, giving it the ability to hear. Resistance is the soul’s screaming and yelling, drowning out the voices of Pneuma (Spirit) and Sophia (wisdom).

Jesus Learned Obedience Through Suffering [part 2]

Let’s go just a little deeper down the rabbit hole, shall we?

I’ve been intensely fascinated by the idea of Jesus arriving at new stages of experience as one commentator put it. One road of Hebrews 5:8 we could journey down is that Jesus learned obedience through a particular kind of suffering which we do not normally think of. Suffering is, as we know, not limited to physical pain. Pain is a part of growth as a human being. As Luke Timothy Johnson astutely points out in his commentary on this passage,

“intellectually, the learning of new ideas is a form of growth: our minds expand to include new realities of which we had not previously been aware. The growth is good. But it is also painful, since it implies the disruption and rearrangement–and often the abandonment–of our previous mental furnishings. To enter into new mental territory means at least a partial death to old mental territory. Stretching the mind to encompass new truth means suffering the pain of mental disequilibrium.”

Can you wrap your head around the fact that Jesus, taking on our humanity to the fullest degree, likely leaned new ideas which stretched him?

Perhaps he grew up hearing some corrupt religious teachings which he later found out, through seeing more of the light of God, were unhealthy and not truly from the heart of Yahweh. To shed something we’ve been taught, or simply heard and absorbed most of our life, is indeed a death, a suffering. We’ve all had to drop certain ways of thought which we discovered were unlovingly judgmental, and it does kind of hurt to admit to ourselves that we ever harbored such views.

Of course I am not saying Jesus ever sinned, nor will I ever. I’m merely pointing out this fascinating aspect which shows how deeply he can relate to us because of his great sacrifice and service to humanity that is no doubt greater than we’ve probably previously imagined.

The word “learned” in this verse is not conveying that Jesus went from disobedience to obedience, but rather has the connotation of coming to know something firsthand through personal experience. This is why I love the First Nations Version (a wonderfully fresh Indigenous translation of the New Testament) of this verse: Even though he was Creator’s Son, he still had to learn, through suffering, what it means to stay true to the ways of the Great Spirit.

Maybe Jesus had to experientially learn as a kid that life is not about pleasing people or trying to look good, but about pleasing God and serving people. At some point he probably recognized that we cannot transform others; we can possibly inspire them. Even God’s Son did not have a 100% conversion rate. Therefore, we can say with a little more certainty that Jesus experienced the suffering that comes with people not accepting what you are offering them, of people not really listening to you, and perhaps the most confusingly painful of all–people misunderstanding you and your intentions. How horrible is that?

But he had to keep obeying his Father anyway, through all of this suffering.

Despite the inevitable unmet expectations and desires that come with being human, he still had to trust in God. Gee, that’s always easy.

And remember, obeying is deeper than simply keeping the rules, as efficacious as that might be. Did you know that the Latin root of the word “obey” means to listen, to hearken to, to pay attention to? Despite suffering, we must keep listening to the One who designed us. We must keep our attention focused upon our Creator who is perfect love and knows us better than we know ourselves and wants the absolute best for us at all times. And not only listening and paying attention, but saying yes–every time.

Jesus Learned Obedience Through Suffering

Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. ~HEBREWS 5:8

This verse has intrigued me for many years.

Jesus learned obedience through suffering.

I have sat with this single sentence for almost three weeks now, and feel that my thoughts still have yet to coalesce into any sort of non-ambiguous distilled formation worthy of sharing.

But there’s so much here, so much I’ve poured over, thought about, prayed through that I desire to share….so I will simply start putting down thoughts in hopes that Spirit will move if this is of God, and stop me if it is not.

I’m blown away by the fact that Jesus had to learn what it meant to be obedient. Think about that thought alone for a second! He became acquainted with what it was to obey in the face of suffering, to obey even when that very obedience was the cause of harm to Himself.

He had to overcome and override His (God-given?) human desires whenever they were at odds with the Father’s will and plan for His life. He took on human desires to fully identify with us. Along with humanity came temptation and weakness. So it seems there must have been times when he humanly wanted something other than what the Father had in store for Him. The most obvious scenario we could point to is having to override that innate sense of survival when He was called upon to give up His life, and in a most cruel manner.

In my study of this verse, one theme that kept coming up across the different commentaries was this idea of reverential submission. William Barclay had a really thoughtful insight on this topic: “Jesus learned from all His experiences because he met them all with reverence.” I don’t believe I have ever thought of that exact idea before. Jesus was always, without fail, looking to His Father, deferring, trusting, obeying. So therefore, in every situation of His earthly life He was learning since he greeted each and every circumstance with reverence and submission. His human mind and body must have possessed urges, because of how complete was His identification with us flesh and blood beings. Urges to play it safe, to do whatever His flesh messaged Him was good to do and pleasing for Himself. Temptation and weakness are not sins. But they are challenging to deal with as humans. And He dealt. So focused was He on Father in every situation, and on learning His will more completely, that He never succumbed to allowing Himself to be overwhelmed with what this life threw at Him.

In thinking of this, I was reminded of what C.S. Lewis said about temptation with regard to Christ in his book Mere Christianity. If you think Jesus does not understand our plight because He never sinned, think again:

A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is….A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means–the only complete realist.

It’s like if there was a CrossFit contest with a 40 day course, Jesus would have been the only one to ever finish it. How foolish it would be for someone who tapped out after day 6 to say, “You don’t know what this course is like; you don’t understand how hard this is!”

Powerful Quote on Prayer

There is no greater proof in the world of our spiritual danger than the reluctance which most people always have and all people sometimes have to pray; so weary of their length, so glad when they are done, so clever to excuse and neglect their opportunity. Yet prayer is nothing but desiring God to give us the greatest and best things we can have and that can make us happy. It is a work so easy, so honorable, and to so great a purpose, that (except in the incarnation of His Son) God has never given us a greater argument of His willingness to have us saved and our unwillingness to accept it, of His goodness and our gracelessness, of His infinite condescension and our folly, than by rewarding so easy a duty with such great blessings.

Jeremy Taylor

A Year of Review

The wind blows where it wants to, and you hear the sound it makes; but you don’t know where it’s coming from or where it’s going to. That’s what it’s like with someone who is born from the spirit. ~JOHN 3:8

People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.” -Samuel Johnson


I have received a word from the Lord.

No, I am not an aspiring cult leader.

It’s just that the Wind spoke a personal word, for me, as happens from time to time. And I think it’s important and encouraging to share these words with others, when appropriate.

This message concerns the upcoming year for me: It is to be “A Year of Review”.

A year of taking inventory.

It is to be a time of purgation, fasting, and decluttering of mind, body, and home. And it shall begin with a January fast from reading any books. I very much enjoy reading, but there comes an appropriate season to cease from accumulating and consuming so that you can simply metabolize and digest. This of course applies to much more than the reading of books.

I’m very excited for this 2024 journey of reviewing with God the countless blessings He has bestowed, and teachings He has given. As we touched on this in the last Ripple, there is a joy and efficacy in taking the time to read over what you have journaled, soaking in the growth Jesus has fostered in you, thanking Him for what He has brought you through. To simply go back over highlights and notes in books I’ve read, instead of jumping immediately to the next book, is such a wonderful practice of reminding à la Samuel Johnson’s quote above. To actually look through the 13,000 photos on my phone, reliving joyous memories, deleting those surplus shots to clear space… All of this cultivates a wide smile and deep gratitude.

I look forward to the removal of encumbrances and the making of room for more space to simply be with God in contemplation. And by contemplation I mean it as the mystics refer to it: sitting in silence waiting for a word from God which you cannot come up with on your own. In my experience there is no greater practice or use of your time than this.

I know this has been more of a personal sharing, but I’d like to encourage you, if you don’t already, to choose a word for the year, or a theme, some anchoring thought or centering truth you’d like to keep returning to. I have found this helpful and grounding.

Tho we may desire to improve ourselves in several areas, it is realistic to implement just one shift per year. In reality, if you do indeed initiate just one or maybe even two reforms over the course of a year, you are advancing at an impressive and sustaining rate!

There is a nagging pressure to do everything, or at bare minimum a lot of things in order to keep up or please everybody. This must be resisted so that you can make tangible and lasting renovations which will liberate you in some efficacious manner, as well as bless those close to you to a greater degree.

As I said, my specific calling for 2024 is to review with God the plethora of goodnesses in my life, and take moments to enjoy them anew, to appreciate what I already have by physically attending to it. This will naturally decrease time and energy for accumulating and consuming more more more. I anticipate sharing from this invigoration with those around me what I am enjoying. You can expect some rich Ripples of review this coming year, Lord willing 🙂

Oh the easy yoke and light burden of focusing on doing just a few things mindfully well!

What might be your word, theme, focus for the upcoming year?

What is one shift that would greatly free you? And likely bless the world around you?

You Gotta Rest to Grow

He took his leave of them and went off up the mountain to pray. ~MARK 6:46

For about a dozen years I was a certified personal trainer beginning back in 1998. One of the fascinating principles I learned was that when you workout, you cause micro tears in the muscle fibers, so you’re not really building muscle during the activity, you’re actually tearing it down. It is in that 24 hour period of resting the muscles after a workout where growth, in reality, takes place–provided you have proper nutrients and hydration of course.

If you work the same muscle groups vigorously everyday, they will never grow; they will just keep getting broken down with no chance to build back up.

One of my favorite bodybuilders was Mike Mentzer. He had such an incredible mind and approach to his craft. He said that optimally you would lie around resting and growing 24 hours a day, BUT reality dictates that you need to stimulate the growth, as well as sleep for about one-third of your life. So his philosophy was to spend the bare minimum amount of time in the gym to produce maximum gains in the body. His approach, which he termed “H.I.T”, or “High Intensity Training”, was to go to all out total muscle failure, but for a much shorter duration than the other bodybuilders. In other words, spend more time growing and less time tearing down. It seemed to work pretty well for him, as you can see from the picture.

I was thinking of parallels in the spiritual life, since Papa Yahweh created all that we call science, biology, anatomy, etc. to reflect Himself in some way, as well as reflect the spiritual journey itself, I believe.

And I realized that it is when we are resting in Christ that we are experiencing the most profound growth. As stated earlier, there must be stimulants for growth, such as Scripture meditation, acts of service, sharpening conversations, communal worship, and perhaps most stimulating, some sort of suffering.

But the maximal growth is not happening during these actions. You can’t read and study Scripture nonstop without reflecting on it if you’re going for optimal spiritual health. You can’t constantly serve others without taking a break. Think of the down time Jesus needed after feeding the 5,000 people; He didn’t immediately go feed another 4,000, He got away to take a break and pray (Mark 6:46). You’re not ready for the storm to hit while you’re building your house on the rock. It is afterward, as you are able to chill, to rest in said house, when the winds and the waves can beat upon it and you’re able to stand firm.

I believe it is when we are resting in Christ that those spiritual muscles are most literally rebuilding and becoming stronger. When you are simply sitting in God’s presence and enjoying Him with no agenda. It is when you are calmly reflecting upon Scripture, after reading or studying it, reflecting on a sermon after hearing it, reviewing your previous day after living it.

And then there is gratitude. Gratitude is of vital importance, for we are resting in a state of thankfulness, allowing our souls to expand.

Another way we can be resting in Christ is by trusting wholeheartedly in His goodness, love, and care in the midst of a difficult situation.

Twelve years ago this month I remember heeding Jesus’s call to take 30 days without talking to anybody (outside my family and work). By simply obeying that directive towards a sort of “nothing”, I experienced more growth than any other 30 day period of my life. Thanks be to God.

As a preacher once claimed, we grow close to one another by hanging out and doing….nothing. Not everyday needs to be an epic event–though some epic events are necessary in our life, for they provide us with so much to reflect upon the rest of our days!

I’ve journaled a lot in my life, I mean A LOT. That specific action is extremely helpful, but you know what is possibly even more valuable? You guessed it. Actually reading what you’ve journaled. Sure, some of it is embarrassing, but it is highly efficacious for fostering growth, probably because there is something powerfully effective in assimilating experiences and information. (For a Ripple on this see Developing the Film of Your Life)

I’ve read a couple of really cool brain books which talked about how during your deep sleep cycle, your brain is collating information you took in and experiences you underwent from the day, as if there’s someone in there filing everything away into their proper folders and drawers. How amazing! Therefore, if we are taking in or doing too much without appropriate rest and reflection, we will suffer from a sort of spiritual constipation. Not to be crude, but that will definitely inhibit growth and function!

Forcestart

It was quite wonderful a couple of weeks ago to spend the weekend with my good Spirit brother in Christ Aundre (that’s him on the left) down at Saint Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana. Back in 2012 he and I both felt the “Pneuma nudge” to start a dad’s prayer group at our daughters’ elementary school, and we’ve been tightly bonded ever since. I’ve met very few people who are as Spirit attuned and led as Aundre. We had been wanting to do a weekend together at the monastery for over a year, and it did not disappoint in the joy it brought us.

Whenever I spend a weekend “on the hill” as they say, it never fails that I hear a message or more from Jesus, as the campus is so very conducive to the quieting of the mind, and filled with the presence of Christ.

The word I heard on this particular excursion was “Forcestart“. (Apparently it’s not an official word for the dictionary, but the Spirit doesn’t always use words from our dictionaries.) Forcestart to overcome the inertia of lethargy, as well as the fear of a task or the distaste for a task.

It takes an incredible amount of energy to propel a rocket or space shuttle out of the atmosphere and escape the pull of gravity. In the same way, it takes a kiloton or two sometimes to get me to perform a dutiful task, even a small one. The Holy Spirit was simply and plainly telling me that, at times, you just have to force yourself to do the bare minimum to get started, because beginning is typically what requires the most energy and therefore is the most difficult part. After a shuttle is blasted into space, the booster rockets fall away, and it is relatively smooth sailing from that point on as far as energy and fuel requirements go. Likewise, when I do force myself to start something I really need to do, not only does the work inevitably begin to flow, but I also find that it is always worth it. It always feels good and right to accomplish something meaningful.

Now I’m talking about more than merely setting out the garbage on Tuesday nite. For example, on this particular weekend away, I had brought with me two “Letters to my Daughter” journals (we have two daughters). Over the past few years, I’ve been trying to write down affirmations and life lessons I would like for them to know and have in written form. This is an extremely meaningful practice, but I often times find myself putting it off because it can feel daunting and intimidating. “You must write perfect and epic letters every single time, Robert!” I will hear a voice demand of me and quickly feel overwhelmed. But then, thankfully, there’s that still small voice of gentleness and peace whispering, “Just write. They will cherish every word because it is from your heart. Remember, done is better than perfect, for perfect will never get done.” So I forced myself to simply write “Dear Gabriela,” and before I knew it, a full page of something beautiful and lasting was made manifest.

The other aspect of this is the need to put aside the easy and self-serving in favor of the more meaningful and long-lasting. I love reading, so I brought some books with me to the archabbey, but there came the time to put the book down and write letters to my daughters, or email my friend in prison, or thank my wife for being amazing…. Reading is not a bad thing, but it was the easy and more self-serving task in this particular instance which had to be set aside to make room for that which is of paramount importance at this juncture. Was it better for me to tally up yet another book finished? Or take some time out to strengthen the attachment with my family? Hmmm, I wonder. (Related to this, how many seasons of shows do I need to watch before finally taking the time to intentionally bless someone? Sheesh.)

Is there anything in your life right now which you need to set aside in order to forcestart something more meaningful for life, for others?

Our Desperate Need for Encouragement

But encourage one another every day, as long as it’s called “Today”, so that none of you may become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. ~HEBREWS 3:13

It feels as though there is an acute need for daily encouragement these days more than ever. This feeling stems, at least in part, from the screaming and seemingly ubiquitous voices of negativity, thanks to technological advances which give amplification to more opinions than our ancestors would have been able to hear in several lifetimes. The sheer number of people we can (and perhaps are subjected to) see and hear in a given week alone is enough to overload you; and then if a significant portion of that cacophony is negative in some way, or flat out false, it is more than sufficient to assist someone in finding madness. On top of that, there’s whatever effect the last three and a half years have had on us. I’m sure many movies will come out someday to expound upon that experience with its many social implications.

All that to simply say it is of the utmost importance that we keep encouraging each other daily.

As the verse says, so that we do not become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, and I wonder if we could say today, “by the deceitfulness of social media and fear-mongering news outlets.” I must admit that I have become full-blown cynic when it comes to politicians. So in that way I have indeed become hardened.

Lately, I’ve been thinking of how wonderful it is to receive a good word, whether it be a story of someone helping another person or aiding an animal, or perhaps a personally affirming compliment, or of course cute kitten videos–the best use of the internet by far.

Oh the immense efficacy of encouraging someone everyday! Please, may I encourage you to think of someone everyday to give a word of affirmation to. And may I say that the best way to begin, which I have found, is by praying earnestly and specifically for people you know. This enflames your heart for persons in your life, and facilitates clarity and purity of mind toward them. Another way this can look, for me, is simply sitting in a listening posture, and the Spirit of Jesus is so very faithful at placing someone on my heart who needs a word, and sometimes the Holy Spirit even supplies the specific blessing to speak.

This goes such a long way.

Just think back on the times you’ve been noticed by someone for a beautiful trait you possess, or some effort you put in which someone lovingly brought attention to. It’s incredibly inspiring, is it not? You are reminded that your action was indeed meaningful and that you really do matter. We may know on paper that we are of infinite value to God, but if we go a long time without hearing it via other humans, it becomes rather easy to forget experientially just how cherished we are by the Almighty, let alone anyone else!

How we need to spread more and more of this kind of positivity and affirmation; there’s plenty of judgment to go around already, much of it against ourselves, so let’s get shifting those scales the other direction and put into the ether what is lacking, shall we?

Everyone desperately needs encouragement.

Someone gravely needs to hear from you today….