Meals of Communion…a post by Joy

From my own experience, It really is true that to share a meal with someone is an opportunity of reminding us that we are in communion with Christ.

It’s interesting to me that a number of times in Scripture, including the story of the angels who appeared to Abraham to announce to him that he and Sarai would become parents in their ripe “old age”, this bit of news was delivered in a setting around the experience of a meal.

The first miracle performed by Jesus was in the venue of a wedding feast, a celebration with others. Yet to the other side of things, Jesus was reprimanded for having a meal with sinners, a condemnation by others for his choice of company. When the Prodigal Son came home, his father immediately gave instructions to his older son and servants alike to prepare the fatted calf for a meal; and most amazing is that the last significant act of community and communion that Jesus had with His disciples before the crucifixion was the “Last Supper.”

To eat a meal around the kitchen or dining room table is a place of physical nourishment AND a place of communion with each other for soul nourishment.

Many times I am reminded as I’m serving or eating a meal with family, friends or strangers too, even in the airport, that I am hosting the presence of Christ within my soul to serve a bit of Christ to others. And in the same way, I receive a blessing and a portion of who Christ is from other believers as they are living out their gifts from Him as image-bearers of Christ. We are being in communion with Christ, with others and with ourselves by doing this simple, life-giving act of eating our meals while being mindful of His life-giving presence in each of us.

Soul to soul, heart to heart, mind to mind, through the Holy Spirit we commune with each other and with the loving presence of God, the Father; God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit.

This Sacred holy practice of eating 3 times a day either alone with Christ or with others, is a reminder that we can intentionally and mindfully return to Christ these specific times per day (even if it’s 2 times/day.) We all participate in this ritual of eating like clock work because we are human and were designed to nurture our physical bodies this way. It’s a time for replenishing our energy levels for our bodies. Yet it’s also a replenishment for the care of our souls as we “gather all the parts of our selves” (whether the playful self, the rigid self, the hurting self, or the helpful self etc.) to a centering place with Christ. He could have created us to be nourished “on the run” ALL the time without having to take this time to be in communion with Him, with others, or with ourselves.

Yet, I am so very thankful He gave us this gift of sitting down with others to eat a meal, looking each other in the eye to express and be an example of what our communion can be with Him. A holy sacred space like this certainly includes space for laughter and sometimes tears as hearts are shared with each other.

DO ALL OF THIS IN REMEMBRANCE OF ME,” is a command and a reminder of the work of Christ in us through His sacrifice every time we partake of the elements of communion. Yet, for me, it is also a reminder that when we participate in a meal with others, we are being mindful of His work in us through the communion that we have with others.

Babette’s Feast is a movie that I like to watch at least once a year and especially around the Thanksgiving season. It’s a wonderful story about a Parisian political refugee from the 19th century who is given opportunity to use her gifts in a unique way to bring healing to a hurting village through the experience of an incredible meal. To me, Babette is an example of a woman who was being mindful of the healing presence of Christ within her, not by her words, but by her act of communing with the people of the village through a meal.

May Christ be honored by the way we enter into a meal with one another as an act of communing with Him as we commune with those around us.

Walking the Dog… a post by Jim

For the past couple months I’ve been very intentional about living present in the ordinary of life with the prayer that God will meet me there. Would like to say that I am a master at that but I am not. However, God is helping me see that the ordinary is filled with extraordinary realities. That seemed to happen a couple days while I was walking my son’s dog (how and why Joy and I have taken in his dog is another matter!).

So … I was walking Jordan at Mount Saint Francis Abby where there are hundreds of acres and miles of trails in fields and woods. This is a great place to appreciate God’s handiwork in nature. Jordan was on his leash as we approached another dog. Jordan is a rescue dog that, for whatever reason, hates any other dog that doesn’t look like him. After a brief skirmish where I had to pull Jordan off the brown lab that was simply looking for a polite meeting we continued our walk.

After a couple hundred yards we met up with a second dog. This time I took more precautionary measures and asked the approaching owner to keep her dog away from mine and added, “My dog is a racist and will attack most any other dog if given the chance.” She quickly informed me that her dog was not racist but a progressive who loved all dogs. “He has a pink leash to prove how progressive he is!”

After we passed each other without incident I heard her son (looked like he was about 5 or 6) ask his mom, “What is a ‘progressive’.” I didn’t hear her answer. But it made me reflect on the power of words AND the assumptions that come with the words that we use.

The point is not to question whether all ‘progressives’ lack any racist traits. The question for me became, “Do I make assumptions about the character of my own soul based simply on words, even good and ‘Christian’ words, that I use? Because I know and use the word ‘humility’ do I assume that I walk in humility toward God and others? Because I know the word ‘sin’ do I really avoid it? Because I know the word ‘courage’ do I display it?

God can use almost anything for the purpose of soul reflection. Even walking the ordinary (racist) dog.

Merry Christmas from CrossPoint…a post by Rich

We at CrossPoint Ministry wish you all a very Merry Christmas. In a world polarized by and riddled with fear there is no greater message than of the one who is called “Immanuel” God with us. The Christmas story is magnificent in many ways. The angelic announcement to the shepherds of “good news of great joy,” the noble humility of Mary and her words “let it be to me according to your word,” and Joseph’s dream marked by the angelic voice saying, ‘She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” And of course Joseph’s ensuing obedience to what he had heard. The magnificence of the arrival of the one who is “the Son of the Most High” is shrouded in simplicity, obscurity, and poverty.

Christian orthodoxy has for centuries contended that this child in the manger is the Mediator between God and man. He is the Mediator of the created order. All things are created by him, through him and for him. (Col. 1) He is the one in whom “all things hold together.” The very nature of this infant child is the one who creates and sustains all that is! Since the Son of God is the mediator of all creation everything in the created order is structured for relational participation. Nothing exists except through him and for him. Everything that is has his personal touch upon it. As Paul would say, “He is the firstborn over all creation!” God is with us beckoning us in all that is created to see his invitation for connection and communion.

But this God who structures the universe for relational participation seeks personal relational communion for his glory and our good. So the Son of God is born in the fullness of time and will save us from our sin. Sin anchored in mistrust is the great adversary of communion. The Son of God the very outpouring of the love of God comes so that we may each be loved beyond measure and by grace we are given faith to receive life in his name. And this life is eternal life because it is the very life of the Trinitarian God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is with us! He is with us in the depths of our being. His Spirit is permeating our souls ensuring that as sons and daughters of the living God we shall in Christ find the glory of Christmas becoming progressively more and more, “one degree of glory to another” our glory.

So Merry Christmas to you all. Whatever your present lot in life, whether joyful or sad he is doing far more in you than you think or imagine. He is the God who gives gifts that are beyond our comprehension! And so we say, thanks be to God for the Savior of the world, our Savior, has come and is coming.

Surely God is in this place…a post by Tom

“When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.’ –Genesis 28:16

Jacob was on the run from his brother who wanted to kill him. Jacob whose name means ‘deceiver’ had maneuvered himself into the patriarchal blessing and birthright by tricking his Dad and also taking advantage of his brother. As he was fleeing and making his way to his Uncle’s house he stopped to rest. It was in this vulnerable and exposed ‘in between space’ that he had a fantastic dream and awoke to his conclusion that God was there! He then called that space Bethel which means house of God.

The human condition is on the run. Plagued with fear, manipulation, maneuvering, and trickery we are running from something. We think we have to fool our way into God’s good graces and blessings. In doing so we make a mess of our lives and end up running from what is essential. Yet the funny and sad truth is that what we are running from and looking for is the same thing!

Sometimes it is in these ‘liminal’ spaces when we are in between relationships, jobs, locations, religions, political beliefs, or whatever that we actually stop to rest. It is in these spaces that we are finally vulnerable and exposed and God can get at us! What does he want to get at us with? His love and reminder of our birthright and blessing! We are the beloveds no matter what and His promises aren’t related to our behavior but to an unconditional covenant cut with Abraham by grace through faith and made reality through Jesus. It is our big brother Jesus, not Esau, who is chasing us to remind us of our birthright and blessing!

The shocking revelation of the New Testament is that I am a temple of the Holy Spirit a walking and breathing Bethel. That in each and every eternal moment God is in this place! The issue is that I am too preoccupied to know it. Thank God for those liminal spaces where this can be revealed. May I encounter each moment with childlike wonder and awe that God is in this place, especially when I am on the run.

A Time for Everything…a post by Joy

“It’s time to wind the clocks,” he said as he walked to the grandfather clock that he had built so many years ago. “That’s what I do on Sundays.”

As I watched him proceed to complete this process that he does weekly, I knew that beautiful tones of the chimes would sound on the hour as I have heard it many times through the years.

It made me wonder if in our journey of Christian spiritual formation, Christ says at regular rhythmic intervals, “It’s time to reset the pilgrims on their journeys according to my time. As they live each day, sometimes they get distracted with all the different ways that can fill their hours of life. They get so busy trying to get to places “on time” that they miss the time of their lives by trusting in real time which is ‘MY TIME’.”

The great thing about clocks is that the increments of “telling time” come in seconds, minutes, and hours. They are each important in their purpose of making sure the world runs “on time.” If tiny little moments named seconds are important in the process of recording time then it’s okay for me to take very small steps in the process of spiritual formation and know that it is making a difference in my journey of moving toward reflecting my true self as the likeness of Christ.

Every second, minute, and hour that I live is important to fulfill the time that God is allowing me to live upon this earth. To be aware that I am living moment by moment in His Time is more about being aware of His presence in that particular moment and even in this moment that I am writing.

To sit still and listen to the actual “tick-tock” of the clock is a way of being aware of the moment right now being lived. It also reminds me that I am with Him and He is with me In His Time.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

 “There is a time for everything……..”

The Lord’s Beauty Upon Us…a post by Joy

Psalm 90:17

“Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us. Establish Thou the work of our hands; yes, establish the work of our hands. “

This is one of the first things that came to mind this morning when I awakened. Momentarily outside my window was the distinct chirping call of a bird: the red cardinal. I felt that the beauty of the Lord was being brought to me through His colorful creation. During the next hour I was drawn to that window three times with that familiar sound excited to see the beauty that was behind the call. Every time I see a bright red set of feathers gliding across the air in front of me, I am immediately reminded “God is with me”.

I’m amazed at the different kinds of beauty that have been created by God. Animals, people, and nature, all present ways of His imaginative plan of beauty. This can be “plain as day” to us all to see a view of rivers, mountains, valleys, rolling hills and fields. Yet, I’m amazed that in this Scripture passage, “beauty of the Lord” seems to also be connected with Him “establishing the work of our hands.” He doesn’t mention it once. He mentions it twice as a definite affirmation to all of us who are reading it. Why would it be so important for these two things to segue from one statement to the other?

It seems that one possibility could be that the beauty of the presence of the Lord upon us is, indeed, in the work that He has established for our hands. Whatever that may be according to each of our gifts that He has dispersed among us as a body of believers.

The bright red cardinal is doing what he was “established” or created to do. Sing, fly, and remind me that “…the beauty of the Lord our God is upon us.”

The New International Version translates this verse as: “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us…

Let’s Get Physical…a post by Jim

A couple months ago I wrote a post about the importance our bodies in spiritual formation. I’m coming back to the same topic because I just can’t get it out of my mind (and my body!). What Your Body Knows about God (Rob Moll …If you are interested in more on the body and its impact on formation I strongly encourage you to read it) is also at work in my reflections on the body. As I have read it (and pay attention to my own experience) I am more and more convinced that our bodies REALLY influence the trajectory of Christian transformation.

For example, spiritual disciplines are “activities within our power which bring us to a point we can do what at present we cannot do by direct effort” (Dallas Willard). Disciplines shape us so that we become the kind of people and do the kinds of things that Jesus wants of us. They change our being through our doing. Habits of the body shape habits of the heart. Grow in love, patience, hope, goodness and the like involve disciplined actions of our bodies. If I want to develop a kind heart I need to practice regular acts of kindness.

Neurologists tells us that what most fundamentally drives us is not directly accessible to us (no matter how solid our thoughts or determined our volition). Our instinctive feelings and emotions matter far more than rational ideas. This is not to say our frontal lobes aren’t important in regulating emotions and actions. Thank God we can reflect on and reverse a course of action that will get us in trouble. But Christian transformation will need the help of emotions that are sensitive to what is true, good and beautiful (from God’s perspective).

And that is where the body comes in. Emotions are body states. Spiritual disciplines that involve our bodies shape the emotional (instinctive) reactions we are likely to have. Any time we can instinctively follow God we will be in better shape than relying only on the executive, cognitive center to make us follow God. Rather than needing to choose them we can become people who desire them.

As any top athlete or musician will tell us, training the body to instinctive do at the highest level takes time. But a great game or great music requires people who have disciplined their bodies so that they can do something great. As Christians we cannot overlook the importance of our bodies in play the game/music of being loved and loving God, others, and ourselves.

Seeing God in the Ordinary: Spiritual Life Coaching (Part 1)

Spending time with my (Joy) maternal grandfather on his farm as a nine year old girl has had a lasting impact on my life. On one two week visit he taught me some things about life for which I will be forever grateful. Feeding the cattle, taking a trip to the stockyards, and visiting the quaint little white post office are some of the things we did together. My grandmother was a clerk behind the black iron bars at the window and was delighted that we came to see her while picking up the mail. Continue Reading

snow

The Actual Presence of the Spirit

Taken from The Relational Soul – A secular orientation creates huge challenge for relationships. It displaces the mystery of God’s actual life-giving presence from creation. Gone is the vision that assumes God’s personal presence is the opportunity and the power to engage relationally, that God’s personal presence is the fuel of our relational engine, that God’s personal presence is love. Gone is the understanding that every loving relationship we experience owes its existence to the actual presence of Christ’s Spirit.

Continue Reading

Aesthetic Arrest

Recently we experienced an ice storm here in southern Indiana. Life slowed down considerable with school closings and the like. But the glistening ice in the sunlight of the following day caused ‘aesthetic arrest’ in anyone who had eyes to see.

James Joyce is the one who used the phrase aesthetic arrest to refer to a state of enraptured, overwhelming wonder over beauty. The ice storm was indeed, as John Calvin called it, a theater for the glory of God. It took my breath away in its beauty. It drew my heart to our Creator who never tires of showing us the wild fullness of divine beauty. Continue Reading