A Future and a Hope #nccumc #umc

Thomas Merton: Judgment is really a patient, organic, long-suffering understanding of the man’s whole life, of everything in it, all in contact. November 17, 1961, Journal IV, 179.

Kelli: Merton’s view of judgment is very different from our mainline, traditional view of what our soul’s  ultimate end must be like. We usually think of our immediate after-death experience as standing at the foot of God’s throne, having to listen to a long and painful list of all the bad things we’ve ever done as if we were naughty children caught with our hands in the cookie jar.

What if the element of divine judgment that we are missing is that it is mediated through relationship? A long and deep relationship with Holy Love (God expressed in the Trinity) doesn’t mean we incur God’s wrath as a supernatural trip to a frightening principal’s office. Our lives are meant to be lives as a lifetime of discipline and discipleship, gentle nudges and closed gates that block our way into forbidden fields. In some ways, the nature of divine judgment depends on us. Our intentionality in the practice of prayer as a two-sided conversation is the place where our relationship with Holy Love happens. Those who choose to have little or no connection to Holy Love by their own choice will experience judgment according to their own fear-based assumptions. Those who learn to ‘love God and enjoy Him forever’, as the Westminster Catechism says, will have nothing to fear. Life after life after death is simply the continuation of a well-established and highly valued relationship between our souls and Holy Love.

When we assume that we fundamentally and completely know anyone and anything other than ourselves we are doomed to rely on labels and scare-mongering as paths to understanding. When we live lives based in eager anticipation of the unfolding of relationships, then even the tragedies of our existence are somehow bearable.

The question boils down to trust. Who is at the center of our lives? Are we frantically trying to look out for and preserve ourselves? Or have we intentionally put our relationship with Holy Love at the center of our lives, trusting our future and our hope to be in Someone who loves us even more than we love ourselves?

Thanks be to God for all He has done, for all He is doing and all He is just about to do.

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Monday Morning Mindset – Thanksgiving, grace and creativity

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Whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything takes away from it. Ecclesiastes 3:14

Kelli: A new idea for me, a creative outpouring expressed in words, music or wool is not original to me. It is the uncovering of beauty that Holy Love has already created. This beauty has been disguised by human blindness and broken-ness. Working though my intentional will and gratitude, Holy Love manifests itself and makes itself more fully known. It is in this creative partnership with Holy Love that I find myself seeing more clearly and being more clearly seen.

Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. – Michelangelo

Kelli: Our connection to Holy Love helps us clear away the sin and sadness in our lives. This creative connection must be intentional so that what doesn’t belong in our lives and our efforts can be removed. We must mean to do it. We must resolve to be connected to the Divine, to speak God’s name in public, even sometimes, according to St. Francis, to use words.

Intentional gratitude is a name for this practice. Remembering to be thankful isn’t simply an American holiday that has turned into a retail nightmare. Intentional gratitude is living holy days throughout our lives, seeking the sacred in the ordinary, being grateful for grace and trusting the Creator behind the created. Being grateful for grace means just doing the next right thing – having the wisdom to know what that is and the courage to attempt it.

“I will praise you in this storm,” says the song.

“Peace, be still,” calls Jesus to the winds and the waves and our beleaguered hearts hear him and find hope.

Psalm 65: 7 – “who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of the waves and the turmoil of the nations” (NIV)
Psalm 65:7 – “muzzler of sea storm and wave crash, of mobs in noisy riot” (MSG)

The Psalmist looks around in Israel and points for ward to Jesus. We look around in 21st century culture and praise God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit as an act of spiritual obedience. In the mystery of connection, commitment and creativity, we find comfort for our souls even in the midst of the storm.

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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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