The Thrill and Agony of Longing…a post by Jim

Two weekends ago CrossPoint hosted retreat 5 (out of 8) for our current Deeper Journey community. The topic was ‘desire’ and it certainly touched a nerve.

The Bible repeatedly speaks to importance of desire, having our desires met by God, avoiding sinful desires, pursuing our deepest desires. Jesus asked the lame man, “What do you want me to do for you?” The answer seems obvious. “I want to walk so please heal me.” It seems Jesus is pointing us to the importance of naming our desires.

There is the question of what desires are legitimate to pursue and what desires are tainted by sin and should be avoided. But for me the toughest part of the retreat came when we reminded ourselves that we have many legitimate, wholesome desires that do not come true. The frustration, anger, disappointment, and confusion that flows from good yet unmet desires is real. How can we avoid cynicism the older we get?

Seems the answer is found in a living hope. Hope keeps the heart alive and tender. Hope orientates us to what is coming, not what has happened (or not happened). Hope anchored in the promises of our Lord is a sure bet. Yes, all my desires won’t be met in this life but hope says that all my desires (and more than I can possibly long for now) will be experienced in the life to come. Praise be to God.

We cannot out desire God.

Go fish…a post by Tom

“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”  –Vincent Van Gogh

“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” – Jesus

As Christians (little Christs) we know that life is a spiritual battleground and the opposition to God’s love can seem tremendous. However, we too like fishermen, have never found these dangers good reason to stay on the sidelines. We are drawn and compelled to enter into our spheres of influence and fish for what is true, noble, and good about humanity’s birthright as beloved sons and daughters of God. Where are we stuck on shore? Has something precious been shipwrecked in our ministry efforts and now grief keeps us landlocked? Look, we all knew this was dangerous business when we chose to follow the Master.  Let’s set out again while there is still time.  Why? Because we can’t help ourselves, we are fishermen!

Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us…a post by Joy

For two mornings this week I have awakened to this verse going through my mind.

Psalm 90:17 (KJV)  

“Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.

Establish Thou the work of our hands;

Establish Thou the work of our hands.

It’s a familiar verse that is quoted in the Midday prayer that we have often quoted through the years for the Deeper Journey retreats.  I also have it in song form by the Northumbria Community in England.  Actually, the song is what awakened me from my dreams both of those mornings.

I’ve often been struck by this verse in contemplating the meaning of it or what it has for me as I pay attention to God’s beckoning through it. Besides the enjoyment of appreciating beauty for it’s own sake, beauty has also been important to me as a container for peace.  Nine years ago as we prepared to move, our home was in disarray as we packed. I intentionally lit a candle and set it on the kitchen counter as a reminder that the Holy Spirit, the light of Christ, was with us on this journey. It was an encounter with the beauty of Christ being “upon us.”  This reminder brought peace along with the beauty as I continued to pack, therefore, “establishing the work of my hands!”

A couple of other translations describe “beauty” as the “favor of the Lord” (NIV) or the “approval of God.” (NLT).  Having the favor of Christ on our lives is definitely something that we all may receive from His atoning work on the cross.  I’m imagining that having “favor” or “approval” or “beauty” upon us from God is also going to look different for each of us because we are all created with different gifts, ways of being in the world, and perceiving the world.  It seems, that part of His spiritual transformational work of beauty upon us is “to establish the work of our hands” in whatever way He has designed and allow it to be integrated with the desire He has given us in the first place for that kind of work.

Thanks be to God!

If anyone thirsts…a post by Tom

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. – John 7:37

I am struck with this simple and beautiful invitation from Jesus. It addresses four important issues.

SELF WORTH

Anyone…Yes anyone. Including you? Yes. Including me? Yes. As humans created in the image of God we have the dignity and worth to approach the Savior. God desires all to be saved.

NEED

Thirsts… Feels a need and wants something more. God I am so thirsty in this broken world. I feel a need and want something more. I thirst. “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.” – Augustine of Hippo

SOURCE

Let him come to me… Not let him study or let him do x, y, z or clean up his act first but let him come directly to Jesus. Am I going directly to Jesus or somewhere else including my thoughts and emotions?

ACTION

Drink… Take in what Jesus offers, drink it in and ingest. Let who He is and what He offers become me. This involves consent, this involves openness, this involves communion, and this involves receiving. Do I trust that what he offers is good?

Desire Changes Slowly…a post by Tom with David Brooks

All of us want change…just not the painful transition.  There is so much I would love to change about myself immediately, yet spiritual progress seems glacially slow at best.  If I know what needs to be changed now, then what is the hold up?  My desires.  A lessor desire can only be dethroned by a greater one.  That is the issue.  Cognitively I may want to change but affectively my desires are still held in check by lessor loves.  It seems that the way forward is to contemplatively steep my desires in love for God, which is more of a crock pot affair than a microwave one.  Check out the following quote from David Brooks “The Road to Character” and see if it encourages you.

“as people rise up and seek to meet God, their desires slowly change.  In prayer, people gradually reform their desires so that more and more they want the things they believe will delight God than the things they used to think would delight themselves.

The ultimate conquest of self, in this view, is not won by self-discipline, or and awful battle within self. It is won by going out of self, by establishing a communion with God and by doing the things that feel natural and in order to return God’s love.

This is the process that produces an inner transformation.  One day you turn around and notice that everything inside has been realigned.  The old loves no longer thrill.  You love different things and are oriented in different directions.  You have become a different sort of person.  You didn’t get this way simply by following this or that moral code, or adopting a drill sergeant’s discipline or certain habits. You did it instead because you reordered your loves, and as Augustine says again and again, you become what you love.” 

I Have a Dream…a post by Jim

Martin Luther King, much like Martin Luther centuries ago and the Apostle John and the Old Testament prophets of old, had a vision of a different future. They had a dream of what life might look like when the kingdom of God is more fully lived on earth. They called people to live that reality.

We cannot live well without a vision, without a dream, without hope of something better. At so many levels and in so many places we see the brokenness, suffering, and sin of people on the edge of the vision. Indeed, all of us need a sense of “we were not created for this so surely God has something better in store for us.”

Yesterday, as we celebrated a national holiday honoring a man with a dream of people being judged, not by the color of their skin, but the quality of their character all of us should pause and ask ourselves, “How can I better ‘do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God’?”

Be specific. Not random but INTENTIONAL acts of righteousness, kindness, and meekness. Maybe tip someone twice as much as normal. Maybe prepare a meal. Maybe 15 minutes of quiet prayer listening to God with a spirit of surrender.

What is your dream? How are you living toward it today?

For Longing…a New Year blessing from John O’Donohue

For Longing

Poem by John O’Donohue

blessed be the longing that brought you here
and quickens your soul with wonder.

may you have the courage to listen to the voice of desire
that disturbs you when you have settled for something safe.

may you have the wisdom to enter generously into your own unease
to discover the new direction your longing wants you to take.

may the forms of your belonging – in love, creativity, and friendship –
be equal to the grandeur and the call of your soul.

may the one you long for long for you.
may your dreams gradually reveal the destination of your desire.

may a secret providence guide your thought and nurture your feeling.

may your mind inhabit your life with the sureness
with which your body inhabits the world.

may your heart never be haunted by ghost-structures of old damage.

may you come to accept your longing as divine urgency.
may you know the urgency with which God longs for you.

A Thanksgiving Invitation…by Tom and Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Thanksgiving is upon us and with it comes the requisite gatherings with family and friends, or not. These spaces of holiday gatherings can be either interesting or disinteresting.  The usual suspects arrive and tell the usual stories with the usual chatter.  What could make these interactions different or interesting?  The following poem leads us in a beautiful invitation to have an interesting holiday with whomever we are with and most importantly ourself. 

The Invitation

by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon.

I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shrivelled and closed from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it, or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own; if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, be realistic, remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty even when it is not pretty every day. And if you can source your own life from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, ‘Yes.’

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

Imagination and Our Spiritual Journey…a post by Rich

Have we lost our capacity for imagination as Christians?  Have we assigned imagination to child’s play but now of course we are adults so we set aside childish ways?  Imagination is about pretend, we all know that.  We use our imagination for fantasy. Imagination takes us into the world of the improbable and the impossible.  Adult life has to face what is real and not engage in some imaginary goose chase.  So this is how many have come to think about imagination. 

Could there be more to imagination than what we imagine? Imagination is a faculty or capacity of the mind. We all use our  imagination. We can imagine a relaxing vacation at the beach, a positive outcome to a difficult conversation, or a family living in peace. When we look at the way Jesus taught, it seems like he invited us to regularly use our imagination. The prodigal son story, or when he says “the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed,” or in his parable of the sower, or even his statement “I am the way . . .” All invite us to use our imagination.  Paul seems to invite the use of our imagination as well in his theological teaching when he speaks of our be baptized in Christ and our being raised in him. He further instructs us to set our minds on things above where Christ is seated.  All this and more invites imagination. 

Reason helps us to discern what is true. Imagination which is intertwined with faith enables us, as CS Lewis argued, to discover and know meaning. Imagination isn’t just about pretend or fantasy. Quite the contrary, without imagination we would never truly know reality.  Reason allows me to observe my world and draw some conclusions from the world’s beauty and complexity for instance.  Imagination helps me see God’s eternal power and deity is manifest in all of God’s created order. Imagination helps us to see and know more.  

Imagination plays an essential role in our reading of Scripture and our ability to enter the story of God. We can imagine ourselves with Christ and listen to him as he teaches and observe him as he heals. Imagination that is educated and structured in God’s word becomes a real source for discerning in relationships and in problem solving. Imagination is most important in our spiritual life because it can assist in fostering experiences of God’s presence.  Perhaps it is time for all of us to consider that imagination is a gift from God for our spiritual journey. And this gift actually assist us in knowing what is most real! Imagine that!

Olympic Pressure … Olympic Love…a post by Jim

I’ve never competed at a high level. I felt the weight of spelling competitions in elementary school. And the pressure of going 14 and 0 on our middle school softball team. And the strain of getting sermons ready week in and week out for many years. But I’ve never felt anything like the Olympic pressure of putting everything on the line after years of preparation for that one chance.

For the swimming events, the difference between gold and bronze is often just a few tenths of a second. And then there are the women gymnasts on the balance beam. They do things on those 4 inches that I couldn’t begin to do with 4 feet. The pressure they feel just to avoid a broken leg is huge, much less a win.

Most of the athletes who put everything on the line after years of sacrifice will win only a sense of satisfaction that they had a chance to compete. Few get medals. But still they welcome the chance to compete. It is as if they don’t care what others might think as long as they can have the chance to give their all.

This morning I read the story of the blind man in Luke 18. When he heard the crowd he wanted to know what was happening. On hearing that Jesus was passing by he put everything he had on the line in order to get Jesus’ attention. He ‘won’ his event. He got his sight. And he did because he didn’t stop shouting at Jesus. It was his one chance.

I’m glad that for most of life we get more than one chance. I’m thankful we don’t live under the strong pressure of putting everything on the line every moment of the day. But I am struck with the love of the game that motivates the Olympic athletes. What do I love that motivates me to put everything on the line?