Category Archives: Faith

Seasonless

 

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Celtic Daily Prayer, April 22, Aidan Reading:

“We are all very subject to seasons; yet these seasons are there to make us eventually seasonless.  There is only one way you are ever going to learn to triumph over all seasons, and that is to go through each and every season . . . many times.  When you can reckon the sound of abundant rain and the hot blowing of a dry spell exactly the same, then you will be nearing the land of maturity.”

To make us eventually seasonless . . . wow.  I like that.  That doesn’t come natural to this empassioned irishman, but I sure see the wisdom in it.  Typically, our approach in life is to avoid pain, suffering and all sorts of unpleasantries so that we can experience status quo or increased pleasure.  Rarely do we ground our experiences in the context of ongoing maturity.  That makes everything a teachable lesson and not something to rush through or avoid for personal safety. Ultimately, I follow Jesus because I believe his ways and his Kingdom are leading me back to the place I was always meant to be.  It is a pursuit of becoming more fully human, becoming the human I was always meant to be.  To do that, involves a process of “becoming mature” or “complete” as the apostle Paul put it.  this doesn’t happen overnight, this is my life’s work in all seasons.  That there come a day where my reaction and response to abundance and dry times is the same, all who know me will assuredly say that it’s not Chris, but Christ. peace,marshall

What is Truth?

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John 18:33-39:  (The Message)33Pilate went back into the palace and called for Jesus. He said, “Are you the ‘King of the Jews’?”  34Jesus answered, “Are you saying this on your own, or did others tell you this about me?” 35Pilate said, “Do I look like a Jew? Your people and your high priests turned you over to me. What did you do?” 36“My kingdom,” said Jesus, “doesn’t consist of what you see around you. If it did, my followers would fight so that I wouldn’t be handed over to the Jews. But I’m not that kind of king, not the world’s kind of king.” 37Then Pilate said, “So, are you a king or not?”   Jesus answered, “You tell me. Because I am King, I was born and entered the world so that I could witness to the truth. Everyone who cares for truth, who has any feeling for the truth, recognizes my voice.” 38-39Pilate said, “What is truth?”

What is truth?  Is there a bigger question in our lifetime?  I really don’t think so.  Your sense of truth is what undergirds your worldview.  Your worldview is your lens for your beliefs and your actions.  We all have them, we just might not know where they come from. I am personally enthralled with the search for truth.  I look for it under the stars on a clear night, I look for it in simple conversations with my kids, I look for it in the affection of my wife, I look for it in the deep conversations with friends around a fire, I look for it in every new experience life brings.  What I wouldn’t give to have been an aid to Pilate on that day.  I find the truth of Jesus to be utterly compelling, would have loved to have heard it from the inflection in his human voice.  To hear veritas (truth in greek) from one spoken with such conviction as he was completey separate from this world, his identity rooted in the Kingdom that is unseen.  I couldn’t be there that day, but I can be here today.  And today has similar revelations of veritas.  That I be open, mindful, expectant and thirsty for his kind of truth. On this holy week, my friends . . . . Seek the truth, and don’t accept counterfeits. peace,Marshall

Work as Sacrament

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Today’s Aidan reading from Celtic Daily Prayer re: St. Columba’s residence in Iona Community:

“The days were filled with prayer, study and manual labor . . . In dairy, granary, or in the fields, each worshipped God in his appointed task, and made his toil a sacramental thing . . . The secret of the early Celts lay in this, that they linked sacrament with service, altar with hearth, worship with work.”  – F. M. McNeil/Troup 

 Wow, I’m a fan of this kind of thinking.  I am as guilty as the next person of having a bad attitude re: work.  I worked in vocational forms of ministry for about 10 years before somewhat firing myself for a life of being bi-vocational in ministry.  I just couldn’t stomach the focus on $ for church buildings and staff salaries when the needs were so great in the larger community around us.  I struggled for years with this shift internally, feeling that I had lost a huge part of my identity, of who I was.  Now I see all and any kind of work somewhat wholistically.  No separation of sacred and secular.  All work can be sacrament, that is sacred, holy, meaningful and done unto our Creator.  We may struggle with work structures, culture, organizational management, pressures, over-bearing coworkers, lack of respect, sense of being dehumanized etc.  But no matter the context, the desire to make work sacramenet I think is up to us.  I have longed believed that hard work is good for the soul.   I was in a meeting this week with a room full of life coaches, corportate speakers, HR consultants, inspirational cheerleaders, job seeking gurus etc.  It was all about them wanting to work with my clients to help them find fulfillment in their work etc.  There is some merit to this kind of coaching, but I really struggle with the premise.  I do not believe you look to work to find meaning, meaning is found within.  You have a life for meaning, you work to work .  Meaning is in relationships, work is for provision.  I believe the curse to man going back to the Garden of Eden that he will toil the land all his days is still a part of this broken world.  Women face pain in childbirth as a part of this curse and anyone (male or female) who are working to provide, will find work hard.  Work is supposed to feel like work and the sweat of our brow can be a holy thing. Work as sacrament, sacred and holy, it’s what we choose to make it. peace,marshall

a future already prepared?

 

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I daily use Celtic Daily Prayer from Northumbria Community.  It is a monastic community on the north shore of England bordering Scotland.  I stayed there on a personal retreat a few years ago and it continues to have a hold on my thinking and my living.  They organized a prayer book and I’m a pretty big fan.  I have long been interested in Celtic Christianity and the legacy of St. Patrick.  I would say St. Patrick has influenced my spirituality as much as the Apostles.  It must be the Irish in me. I read this in Celtic Daily Prayer from today’s Aidan reading and it hit me between the eyes:

“I know the plans I have for  you, says the Lord, to give you a future and a hope. (Jer. 29:11)  God can take events of the past and weave them so skillfully inot a new plan for us that not only do we find there is a future for us after all, but it is as if there have been no wasted years.”Christ Before MeHe forever goes before us to prepare a place for us.  He is on the road we tread.  Where life is leading us, He has gone before.  Perhaps we have no clue about what lies ahead; we know who is ahead of us, so the future is not quite unknown.  – David Adam, The Edge of Glory

peace to your future,marshall

an honest complaint

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“These are the times that try man’s soul.”  – Thomas Paine

7 O LORD, you deceived [b] me, and I was deceived [c] ;       you overpowered me and prevailed.       I am ridiculed all day long;       everyone mocks me.  8 Whenever I speak, I cry out       proclaiming violence and destruction.       So the word of the LORD has brought me       insult and reproach all day long. 9 But if I say, “I will not mention him       or speak any more in his name,”       his word is in my heart like a fire,       a fire shut up in my bones.       I am weary of holding it in;       indeed, I cannot.  12 O LORD Almighty, you who examine the righteous       and probe the heart and mind,       let me see your vengeance upon them,       for to you I have committed my cause.

Sometimes, this is just how you feel.

 peace,marshall

Are you not entertained?

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“Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?”  – Maximus in Gladiator

 Fans think twice about hero worship?  I’ll believe it when I see it.  Hero worship for our sportsmen and now women as well is thousands of years old.  We love our spectacle, we love our circus shows.  We want our neighboring mammals from the ocean to spend their lifetime in a bathtub leaving their context to amuse us for a price.  We love to be entertained and our appetites seemingly have no limits.  We shutter at an orca whale who turned on its trainer, but I myself have paid more than a few times to see it perform in the past and now it seems shameful.  Tiger Woods was the can’t miss marketing icon, clean and perfect like the Gillette shaver he promoted, until he wasn’t.  I am in no way pointing a finger at Tiger, the man is human and clearly had a lifestyle he now deeply regrets and the consequences are heavy.  My issue is the pedastal to begin with.  Perhaps Tiger believed his own hype, my beef is with the hype itself. None of this is new.  The Roman gladiator shows with animals also mauling their trainers.  They were mostly slaves, hoping to win their freedom, and if not, at least to taste some glory.  They were idolized as Rock Stars, sex objects and archaeologists have even found children’s dolls/playtoys in the shape/form of their favorite gladiator.  Babylon, Persia, Egypt and as far back as the Sumerians as we can tell, had some form of sport (usually violent) and hero worship.  Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE sports, always have.  I love competition and respect and have a sense of awe about the talent of others.  But they are human beings and that’s all I’m looking for. What is it in us that wants to idolize?  Are there deep insecurities?  Is fantasy and escape more normative for us than reality?  Why are we so thirsty for amusement?  Why are we so bored with our own selves?  It seems to me to be an issue of meaning.  If we have no real meaning ourselves, if we are not living out our own grand story, then we are looking to latch onto someone else’s.  If we can’t live our own dream, we try and ride the glamorous coat-tails of someone else who seemingly is living theirs.  (although in the end we find it is often no dream for them either)  We live in a culture full of hype, hyperbole and consumer driven marketing.  You HAVE to see this, recognize it and get some appropriate distance from it or those seeking your $$ on TV will be the ones to dictate to you what your story is.  What you should feel, what you should care about, how you should vote, what you should buy, how you should live . . . etc.  Why do we let someone else, who does not have our interest in mind dictate our story?  This is why I ceased watching the news years ago, tired of them dictating to me what to care about with hype and hyperpole for ratings.  (that’s a rant for another day).Here’s the thing, you have all the power and resources within you to be a hero or heroine.  Let me say that again, YOU do, not someone else.  You can parent in such a way to leave a legacy of love and blessing.  You can neighbor in such a way that spurs a culture of generosity.  You can work in such a way that brings to life more than just your company’s mission statement.  You can teach in such a way that inspires introspective learning for life.  You can friend in such a way that you literally become someone else’s answered prayer.  You can spouse in such a way that the experience of Oneness breeds a daily deep affirmation of who you truly are and who you belong to.  You can have a life with meaning and purpose that everything you touch, say, do, feel, think, express and attempt is heroic.  Not someone else, you.  You just need to decided to do so, and decide that everyday.  Then it will be your story that is told for years to come.

“What we do in life echoes in eternity. ”  – Maximus in Gladiator 

That could be your life.  Don’t seek entertainment, seek personal meaning.peace,marshall

Psalm 143

I read this Psalm this morning and I felt a deeper connection to the thoughts from yesterday in Rejection and Resurrection.

Psalm 143  (The Message)

A David Psalm

 1-2 Listen to this prayer of mine, God; pay attention to what I’m asking.   Answer me—you’re famous for your answers!      Do what’s right for me.   But don’t, please don’t, haul me into court;      not a person alive would be acquitted there. 3-6 The enemy hunted me down;      he kicked me and stomped me within an inch of my life.   He put me in a black hole,      buried me like a corpse in that dungeon.   I sat there in despair, my spirit draining away,      my heart heavy, like lead.   I remembered the old days,      went over all you’ve done, pondered the ways you’ve worked,   Stretched out my hands to you,      as thirsty for you as a desert thirsty for rain. 7-10 Hurry with your answer, God!      I’m nearly at the end of my rope.   Don’t turn away; don’t ignore me!      That would be certain death.   If you wake me each morning with the sound of your loving voice,      I’ll go to sleep each night trusting in you.   Point out the road I must travel;      I’m all ears, all eyes before you.   Save me from my enemies, God—      you’re my only hope!   Teach me how to live to please you,      because you’re my God.   Lead me by your blessed Spirit      into cleared and level pastureland. 11-12 Keep up your reputation, God—give me life!      In your justice, get me out of this trouble!   In your great love, vanquish my enemies;      make a clean sweep of those who harass me.   And why? Because I’m your servant.

peace,marshall

Rejection and Resurrection

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I’m preparing a teaching reflection for the 2nd week of Lent and it has led me to the story of Joseph in Genesis.  I have long found the narrative of Joseph’s life to be quite compelling.   Can you imagine a more dysfunctional family?  The Father clearly favors one son over the others, the son overplays his arrogance card, the brothers act out in defiance and sell their brother into slavery while bold-face lying to Dad.  This is the stuff of FOX reality TV.  In fact, the Jewish Scriptures are full of them.  They were as we still are, they are us. Is there anything more painful than the experience of rejection?  It has the power to be fatal to our personhood.  Joseph has a concrete representation of his worth to his brothers, they sell him into slavery.  Now, forever, if he chooses, he can buy into the lie that he is worthless and have a pretty good story to back up that accusation.  When he finds himself in prison in Pharaoh’s kingdom, I can only imagine he had dark nights of the soul where he would rue his very existence.  It is in these deep place of depression where we cannot see the big picture, our perspective is obliterated.  Somehow, Joseph just made a decision to keep hoping about a future.  Regardless of emotion and experience, he yet dreamed for something new about his future.  And that day came.You can’t read Gen. 38 and the horror of Joseph’s rejection from his brothers without taking that in context with Gen. 45 and Joseph reconciling with them.  In short, he deemed the situation, “what you meant for evil, God meant for good.”  It was God who assigned Joseph to a different future in the kingdom.  It was his leadershp at a high position that saved the kingdom from famine.  It was his leadership that was carved out of a history of horrid rejection, dark nights of the soul and the turning away of the negative voices in his head.  He fought for a different future and experienced a kind of resurrection.  Hard times have the power to carve a good leader.   It was also his choice to reconcile with his brothers.  He could have cursed them and chose resentment, but he knew that was a poison to his soul.  The Kingdom way is to bless, not to curse and in it you find a fountain of new life. In this time of Lent, search your heart for those who have wronged you.  Choose to not listen to the false voices that want to dictate to you your worth.  Fight for the thoughts about a new future, a resurrection.  Choose to bless those who curse you and find your worth in the One who made you.  I pray that new life springs up within your very soul. peace,marshall

I babbled on about things far beyond me

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Job 42:1-6 (The Message)
I Babbled On About Things Far Beyond Me

 1-6 Job answered God: “I’m convinced: You can do anything and everything.   Nothing and no one can upset your plans.You asked, ‘Who is this muddying the water,   ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?’I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me,   made small talk about wonders way over my head.You told me, ‘Listen, and let me do the talking.   Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.’I admit I once lived by rumors of you;   now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!I’m sorry—forgive me. I’ll never do that again, I promise!   I’ll never again live on crusts of hearsay, crumbs of rumor.”

 I find this a great reflection on this first day of Lent, Ash Wednesday.  The saying goes, “a wise man says there is a God, and I’m not him.”  Knowing your place in the cosmos is both a humbling realization as well as a taste of true freedom.  To know that ultimately we are not in control is both scary and exhilirating.  I’m a type A personality, I like to be in control, making things happen and getting stuff done.  But what also comes with that is the delusion that everything and everybody is your responsibility.  That kind of thinking is folly and recipe for personal disaster.  I had a graduate school professor who said with this kind of thinking, “you are a train wreck waiting to happen”.  I’ve learend he was right. So on this Ash Wednesday, recognize your limits and surrender that sense of control.  Ask yourself this question:  Did you bring yourself into being?  If not, then stop taking yourself so seriously and relax a bit.  It’s not about you.  The question is, if you let go, are the arms of the One who will hold you sufficient?  That is the question of faith.  And today, by faith, I’m letting go.peace,Marshall

Guilt as a bad teacher

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  I grew up around fundamentalist christian teaching where guilt was King.  It was the easiest way I suppose to get good christians to act right, give them a good short-term motivator in heavy doses and then wash, rinse, repeat until you die.  I guess we assumed that’s the way God wanted it, keep us on pins and needles, obsessively aware of our performance or lack thereof.  I think the model was to be a good christian was to feel perpetually poor about oneself and hope that the next good dose of guilt would be the magic pill we needed to get our act straight.  I mean christian summer camp was constant activity + sleep deprivation + guilt-induced teachings + a late night bonfire and its obvious metaphor of an entire lake of fire + a call to throw my stick in the fire this year and “reaaaaalllllyy” mean it this time = I’m a good christian again.  Whether this was because we thought it worked, or what we thought the Scriptures taught or was simply just cultural conditioning of previous generation’s assumptions and conclusions, it was what we got. So, here’s the problem.  Read the Gospels for yourself and look for the same approach.  I mean, go ahead, actually read them.  It’s not there.  Guilt as the King motivator is just noticeably absent.  You have Jesus at the well, with the adulterous woman, with Zachaeus, at Matthew’s house party, at a drunken party in Cana, with sinners or all sorts and yet in the narratives guilt is not King.  There is a call to a higher standard, a remorse and responsibility for wrong doing, but no guilt-induced lectures.  Rather, it appears Jesus “foolishly” chooses grace, mercy, trust, love and truth as his motivators (please insert sarcasm here).  He took the hard route and seemingly got long-term results.  It was like actual deep-life change instead of short-term external habits.  I guess you could say guilt is for like Micro-wave christianity where you just nuke the outside, and grace/love/trust teaching is like the crock-pot that slowly roasts the meat until its very nature changes and it falls off the bone.  (I’m a big fan of cooking analogies).  So if you want short-term results, go with the guilt approach and keep it coming early and often.  If you are interested in actual life transformation, I suppose try a different way.I think that authentic community is the best vehicle for long-term transformation of character and personhood.  Living life with people who genuinely love you and care for your soul perhaps even more than you do yourself.  The problem comes in the form of intimacy.  Being “known” is a scary thing and many of us have a natural instinct to “run” when we get to that place.  Better it seems to keep intimacy at a distance for our own comfort than stay and work it out.  Make no mistake, real community is an intimate thing and a scary thing at times.The other option as well is to care less about actually changing.  I mean, just see your christian spirituality as a static decision to have your sin problem taken care of so that someday you can go to a mythical place called heaven and leave this god-forsaken earth.  That’s a subject for another day.  I think that the conclusion to our Scirptures is something deeply more than this.  Real change is at the core of our self, not just our external habits.  Guilt is a powerful voice for shallow christianity, shallow teaching and shallow living.  I think we are called to something abundantly more potent.  It’s about the heart, always has been, always will be.

From today’s Aidan reading in Celtic Daily prayer: “Yes, I deal with guild every day.  What counts is my heart’s desire, only that my heart’s motives be pure, and that I strive for that . . .  day after day.”  – Ann Kiemel

Seek freedom, not guilt .peace,Marshall