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Friday, August 15, 2014

Sometimes....you just need somebody to raise you up!


Sometimes you've got to trust the process: that God truly has given you every spiritual blessing in Christ, that the heavenlies are seeded chock full of blessings to rain down on you, to nurture you, to raise you up to fulfill the total potential of who you are in Christ. And God does have some funny ways of making His will known. Wonders will never cease in the life of one who has been regenerated to be a sign and a wonder!


This morning, as I was biking, I passed by a fellow sitting in his car, talking on Bluetooth. Nothing special. After I nearly completed my route, that same car stopped on my side of the road.  The fellow stepped out and began walking towards me.  I really didn't know what to think about the situation until he said, "I'm a bike rider, and I was hoping I'd see you. Your seat is too low."  He went on to tell me that if I raise my seat up, I would get a fuller extension and avoid hurting my knees.  He even went so far as to help me adjust the seat to insure my safety, telling me that the bike shop could raise my handlebars to match the new level of my seat.  During all this, I am standing with my mouth agape, because this doesn't really happen - at least not in the Northeast.  At the end, we introduced ourselves, and wished each other a blessed day.  He got back into his car and drove away.  When I pedaled away, I felt a new freedom in my legs, and all over.  I had some new glide in my stride!

Now for the rest of the story.  I had not raised that seat because I was afraid. Afraid of getting back on a bike after many, many years.  Afraid of falling.  
Afraid of failing.  And, if I dig really deep, I guess I was afraid of really succeeding.  

So, if ever you find yourself scared, you might just need another person to come along and raise you up.  I can tell you, that person will be a Godsend.


"17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend."

(Proverbs 27:17)

Saturday, August 02, 2014

The Discipline of Meditation: A Guidance Tool at Morning Prayer


"Whoever practices the truth comes into the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God." (John 3:21, New American Study Bible)

Biblical Meditation is an intentional method to fill the mind with the Word of God. Meditation, in its Biblical context means many things: it is the sound that a lion makes while eating its prey, it is mulling and ruminating in the mind, turning something around to study, like a fine jewel, it is praying the Word back to God, among other things. There is an order to this, and it mimics the act of eating.

Reading for Transformation (Lectio)
Rather than working on the text as in the discipline of study, lectio divina (spiritual reading) is allowing the text to work on you: bring the whole text to yourself, and your whole self to the text. For this purpose, the goal is not to read as much as the Bible as you can, but to focus a passage, a narrative, a chapter. A relatively brief passage is best. Relax, breathe and read, slowly. Read the passage aloud, if you can. Invite God to wander through the passage with you. Listen to the voice of God as you read.

Meditation (meditatio)
At the end of the passage, pause and ponder. Read the passage again. When the Holy Spirit grabs your attention to a certain phrase or image from the passage, resist the temptation to think of anything else. Stay with that phrase, turn it over in your mind. Use whatever senses are required in the passage; feel the wind Elijah feels at the mouth of the cave, hear the breaking of the alabaster box, smell it unguent contents. Be gentle with yourself when distracted, shoo them away as you would a pesky gnat. Keep yourself focused on the passage, a particular word or phrase, or the scene.

Prayer (oratio)
As you hear the truth, see the truth, and sense the truth, pray the passage back to God. Since the Word is "living and active," you will receive a living and active response. God's word are His promises, and His promises are His ways, and His ways reflect His character. God will never act in a way contrary to His word, it is revered even above His Name! Prayer can happen at anytime during the process; God is in control here.

Contemplation (contemplatio)
You are digesting the Word, as it slowly swirls in your mind, and as listen to God's responses to your prayer, you begin to see the passage come alive. The actors in the passage begin to move, you see the smile on Jesus' face as His friend Lazarus emerges from the tomb. You see and smell the oil running down Jesus' hair as the pure nard is poured from the broken vessel. You hold Jesus face in your hands in meditation; in contemplation, Jesus holds your face in His hands. The silence is speaking.

Action (actio)
Truth begins to leach out of the contemplation, truth that is universal and personal. You begin to see the context of the prayer you prayed to God: a situation, perhaps; maybe someone you are concerned about. Perhaps you learn of a sin you need to confess. Do it now. Perhaps God is directing you to pray or act on behalf of a particular person, go for it.

With practice, this process will run as a "background app" all day long. The Word that you received in meditation will reveal itself during the course of the day; this is the "prayer without ceasing" and "meditating day and night" that we are called to do.

God loves this.  He will guide you through it.

The Discipline of Examen: A Guidance Tool at Evening Prayer

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
my heart teaches me;
night after night.
I have set the Lord before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not fail.
(Psalm 16:7,8)

The examen is the needle at the top of the double-balance scale; where the needle settles indicates whether the weight is equal at both sides of the balance. Likewise, the spiritual discipline of examen helps us to remain balanced in the Lord. We ask ourselves two sets of questions: "how did you attune yourself to the Presence of God today," and "how have you used the gifts that God has given you to love and bless others?"

Here's a guideline for you:

Step 1
Prepare yourself by quietly focusing your attention on God.
In him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)
(Personalize and paraphrase)

Step 2
1) Review your day with thankfulness and a spirit of reconciliation.
When the spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth. (John 16:13)

2) When / How did you live out of love and freedom in Christ today?
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence or if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

3)When / How did you not live out of love and freedom in Christ?
Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord. (Lamentations 3:40)

4) Repent, praise and thank God for what is happening through this exercise, and ask for guidance and grace for tomorrow.

Almighty and most merciful Father,
we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep,
we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts,
we have offended against your holy laws,
we have left undone those things we ought to have done,
and we have done things which we ought not to have done.
But you, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
spare those who confess their faults,
restore those who are repentant,
according to your promises declared to humankind
in Christ Jesus our Lord;
and grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake,
that we might life from hereafter a godly, righteous and sober life,
to the glory of your holy Name. Amen.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20)


Photo: The Discipline of Examen: A Guidance Tool at Evening Prayer

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel;
my heart teaches me;
night after night.
I have set the Lord before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not fail. 
(Psalm 16:7,8)

The examen is the needle at the top of the double-balance scale; where the needle settles indicates whether the weight is equal at both sides of the balance.  Likewise, the spiritual discipline of examen helps us to remain balanced in the Lord.  We ask ourselves two sets of questions: "how did you attune yourself to the Presence of God today," and "how have you used the gifts that God has given you to love and bless others?"

Here's a guideline for you:

Step 1
Prepare yourself by quietly focusing your attention on God. 
In him we live and move and have our being. (Acts 17:28)
(Personalize and paraphrase)

Step 2
1) Review your day with thankfulness and a spirit of reconciliation. 
When the spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth. (John 16:13)

2) When / How did you live out of love and freedom in Christ today? 
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence or if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8) 

3)When / How did you not live out of love and freedom in Christ? 
Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord. (Lamentations 3:40) 

4) Repent, praise and thank God for what is happening through this exercise, and ask for guidance and grace for tomorrow. 

Almighty and most merciful Father,
we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep,
we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts,
we have offended against your holy laws,
we have left undone those things we ought to have done,
and we have done things which we ought not to have done.
But you, O Lord, have mercy upon us,
spare those who confess their faults,
restore those who are repentant,
according to your promises declared to humankind
in Christ Jesus our Lord;
and grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake,
that we might life from hereafter a godly, righteous and sober life,
to the glory of your holy Name.  Amen.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20)

Friday, August 01, 2014

Preparing for prayer


There is a great chasm in the mind between thinking about prayer and actually praying. We need to become accustomed to our natural, God-given circadian rhythm that we see in Genesis: "And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day." Our day actually begins the night before; if one were going into town for an important appointment, one might lay out their clothes on the evening before. 

So since "evening, morning, and noon" (cf. Psalm 55) is our given rhythm, we prepare for prayer by softening and slowing as sun sets. We remove our grip off of the affairs of the day, the to-do lists, the items left incomplete. God is the closer. As we begin to end work, return to home and unplug, our breathing needs to slow, savoring each breath. Our breath becomes a metronome, beckoning us downward, turning off all the other roles in the daylight, and turning toward the Almighty, thanking Him for the events, for the grace of the day. Perhaps you might recite a Scripture portion like "In repentance and rest, there is salvation; in quietness and trust there is strength." (Isaiah 30:15) 


As we slow and center into prayer, we lovingly resist the tendency to reject this need for slowness ("But you would not, and you said, 'No, for we will flee on horses'--, Isaiah 30:16a.) Like a horse that needs taming, our wild selves need to be husbanded under the loving, guiding hand of the Almighty. 


Prayer is the pathway.