Monday Morning Mindset

Mighty Oaks and Tiny Acorns

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Thomas Merton: I must – in my writing, my prayer, my life – take this further step and go beyond my limitations and the limitations of thought, art and religion of our time. And this requires effort and suffering. I simply cannot sit down and accept my limitations – that is impossible. But I must take care most of all not to be content with merely fanciful transcendence – going beyond my limitations in thought and imagination only. It must be a real transcendence. October 31, 1958, Journal III.227-28

II Corinthians 12:7-10 Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

Kelli: Our human weakness is that we become enchanted and enthralled with our own creative fruit, as if we could produce it all by ourselves. Our creativity, our thoughts and imagination, blossom within a larger framework. Just as “might oaks from tiny acorns grow”, the beauty is not in the acorn expressing itself in a tree but in the Creator that first imagined and created both the seed, the full-grown plant and the process of growth and fruitfulness. The acorn can’t take credit for the tree any more than we can take credit for the cosmos and the way it expressed the Holy Love and creativity of its Creator.

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Our lives are a both/and

PARTS OF ONE WHOLE  from SoundBites

Most of our conflicts and difficulties come from trying to deal with the spiritual and practical aspects of our life separately instead of realizing them as parts of one whole.  If our practical life is centered on our own interests, cluttered up by possessions, distracted by ambitions, passions, wants and worries, beset by a sense of our own rights and importance, or anxieties for our own future, or longings for our own success, we need not expect that our spiritual life will be a contrast to all this.  The soul’s house is not built on such a convenient plan; there are few soundproof partitions in it.  Only when the conviction — not merely the idea — that the demand of the Spirit, however inconvenient, rules the whole of it, will those objectionable noises die down which have a way of penetrating into the nicely furnished little oratory and drowning all the quieter voices by their din.

– Evelyn Underhill in The Spiritual Life

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Being a Superhero

 

Superman is invincible except for the little matter of kryptonite. Wonder Woman has her magic bracelets that deflect bullets. Batman has the cowl that protects his identity, the Bat Cave, the Batmobile and his sidekick Robin. The Wonder Twins have each other and the ability to change into any animal, vegetable or mineral that is needed to save the world. When we think about Jesus the Christ , we assign him superpowers as well.

Jesus fed the hungry, healed the sick, and proclaimed the year of the Lord’s favor. He came to set the captives free, to cast out demons, and to save us from our sins. It seems a little offensive to lump Jesus in with the Saturday morning cartoons and the Justice League of America but our unexamined actions tell a different story.

We think so often as Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross, his giving up his life in that moment of eternal justification. What if that is a place we may be missing the point? Did Jesus live a daily life of sacrifice, giving up the things that other humans had? Did he give up the things that mark our humanness and can so easily be trusted? The things that Jesus seemed to live without are the things that can so easily be twisted into idols-money, sex and power.

We assume that Jesus traipsed through Galilee and Samaria like some sort of Robin Hood with his band of Merry Men. Yet perhaps we don’t see are all the private daily temptations. We only see the big ones at the beginning of his life and at the end. Since we don’t have the power to multiply loaves and fished or cast out demons, we think we can give up on following Jesus because we just don’t have the right stuff. Jesus had no permanent home, no wife, no children, no steady source of food and financial security Those are all the things that we think are important in life. It seems that we assume that Jesus was above all that. The sermon to the Hebrews tells us that we have a high priest tested in every way just as we are. The daily tests and trials were part of Jesus life also. How does that realization shift our paradigm of Christ incarnate, Christ made human, just like us?

It’s easy to dismiss Christ’s earthbound life as if he had some sort of secret superpower. He was the son of God so ultimately he didn’t need to work and worry and wonder. Yet I think that’s too simplistic. Jesus said he relied on God for everything: for power and his ability to do miracles, his very life. Jesus didn’t command the father, it was the other way around. Just like us.

Jesus incarnation, being among us human as we are, changed everything. The resurrection and ascension finished and sealed the work. Then, the question becomes: how does the reality of the incarnation change our lives today?

It means that we don’t go anywhere that Jesus hasn’t already been. Even in our technological world of email and cell phones, smart phones that are smarter than we are and a 24/7 work life, the way of Jesus has much to offer us. The rhythms of work and rest, the comfort and intimacy of relationships that make us whole and make us holy, the companionship with God and with each other all bubble up from that spring of living water.

The life of Jesus Christ: his conception, birth, life, death, resurrection and continued life are not a work of fiction or of artful wishful thinking. God’s justice, God’s shalom is wiser and more courageous than human justice. God alone is Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer of all that we are and all that we will be. We don’t need to hide behind masks, wear fancy jewelry or continually change to be what other people need and want. The superpower of life lived as a Jesus-follower comes from the grace that is Holy Love. It is the grace that calls us to a gentle and strong humanity. In partnership with Holy Love we don’t need to be anything that we are not and we have the opportunity to grow into more than we could ever ask or imagine.

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Worrying has potential #nccumc

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Worry is the imagination’s negative step-sister. It is the proof of the creative potential you have for making your life better, not worse. – Julia Cameron

Worry and anxiety can spur us into a positive partnership with Holy Love. We may lift our worries and fears on to the altar, as Abraham did with Isaac, though it often takes great courage to do so. God, the source of Holy Love, gave Abraham a creative solution that Abraham could not see until he followed God’s leading to sacrifice. The whole story is in Genesis 22. The way we read this part of the Bible makes it sound like God sternly commanded Abraham to kill his son. We miss the fact that there was an element of choice involved. Abraham could have said no. He might have never taken the first step that led to an unlit funeral pyre on the top of the mountain called Moriah.

Abraham chose to obey God, in what seems to us as a very dramatic way. The world continues to be transformed today by the courageous descendants of Abraham and Isaac.

When we choose to follow God’s leading, even though the path ahead seems full of suffering, we are partnering with Holy Love, co-creating with the Master of the cosmos. We are taking our place in the work of making all things new instead of sitting around worrying about it.

“Has anyone by fussing in front of the mirror ever gotten taller by so much as an inch? All this time and money wasted on fashion—do you think it makes that much difference? Instead of looking at the fashions, walk out into the fields and look at the wildflowers. They never primp or shop, but have you ever seen color and design quite like it? The ten best-dressed men and women in the country look shabby alongside them. If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

Matthew 6:29 – 34
The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Holding each other’s pain #nccumc #umc

 

 

cuppedhands2

In the end, the thing that redeems us is how we hold each other’s pain. On the surface, it looks simple. It doesn’t require physical stamina or an extensive and expensive education. It looks like simply sitting, no busy hustling and bustling. The hustling and bustling is an avoidance mechanism. We scurry around making casseroles and cups of tea when what is required is stillness and serenity. Facing pain authentically means looking at it unflinchingly, unswervingly. Pain and grief demand that we go through. No matter how much we want to medicate it, or self-medicate, we can only go through the pain, not around it.

I thought for a while that it was only pastors who have to acquire this skill. I thought we were the only ones that had to stand at bedsides and grave sites. We balance awkwardly or delicately along the fine line between being present and being pompous. Delving more deeply, I realized that this is what relationships are made of: the uneasy task of trust and holding each other’s pain.

We are all broken and wounded. We live in the reality of Dante’s Divine Comedy – we sit at the table feeding one another with long handled spoons because we are unable to feed ourselves. We desperately need each other. We choose our friendships and partnerships based on the gut reaction of who we think will respect and nurture what is best in us and what is worst.

The why is obvious. Human beings were created for relationship. Even the most introverted introvert or wounded warrior finds a measure of healing and hope with someone other than themselves. The American icon of the cowboy riding alone into the sunset may be romantic but it glorifies a dangerous lie. Being independent and self-sufficient doesn’t mean strict solitude; it means you want control over the relationships you cultivate. The American War of Independence wasn’t fought so the people over here on this side of the Atlantic Ocean could be alone. It was fought so we could control their own destiny. Perhaps to our forefathers government could function as a set of thoughtfully balanced relationships and partnerships. Perhaps that is how democracy is supposed to work. From the halls of power to the pulpit to the dinner table-it seems we have lost our way.

The pain seems too great. None of us wants to face it and make the hard decisions and corrections that must occur for freedom to survive and thrive. Being distracted by bread and circuses simply delays the inevitable. Children may laugh and giggle at the mocking of death and false bravado of Halloween but the reality comes to each of us all too soon. Will we choose to live facing both the pain and the joy? Or will we sweep tragedy and terror under the rug and pretend they don’t exist?

We must return to Holy Love. Holy Love created us for relationship. Not for judicial or punitive reasons did Jesus Christ die on the cross. In some mystery we don’t completely understand, Jesus Christ died holding our pain. He walked out of the empty tomb scarred but alive, resurrected in a kind of life that for now isn’t completely ours.

We can taste it and live it, as we walk and work together. What is prayer but carrying our hopes and fears to the place of Holy Love, the kingdom of heaven, so our burdens are shared and lightened? The image that comes to me is of cupped hands. Two hands carrying water from the stream to pour into the arid places. A lot of the water dribbles away or is sloshed out in the carrying. Some of the water makes it to its destination-a dry, cracked place in the heart of another.

It is all I can do to offer this living water, carrying it to the broken places that are pointed out to me. Someone else will carry water and let it rain in my tired soul. Holy Love-Father, Son and Holy Spirit-is the Source of the water. The Samaritan woman asked Jesus “You would ask me for water? The well is the and you have no bucket.” (John, chapter 4) It was Jesus who poured living water into her life that day. The living water soothes as our pain, bathes our wounds, and revives our souls. Sometimes, we drink straight from the well. At other times we rely on the cupped hands of others when we are too broken, too tired or too crippled to get it ourselves. “Wounded healers”, Henri Nouwen called us, knowing our broken and healed places are the scars through which Holy Love flows into the world.

Holding each other’s pain is a gift, and an art, a blessing and a suffering. We would much rather rejoice that weep. Yet it is an honor and a burden to live with both. And living with both means we are truly alive.

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