One of the most frequent questions people ask us after viewing the Godspeed Film is, “How do I translate some of these themes into my day to day life?” This is exactly the question we tackle in a recent interview with Axis Ministries as we consider how to parent with intentionality within the same theological framework as the film. We hope that you will find it practical, encouraging, and “real” as you see us doing our best to live from Godspeed (which is really our life rooted in Christ!).“There is no place (or home!) on earth without the potential for unearthing holiness.”
Matt and Julie
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.
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?
This past Sunday was the fourth week of the Lenten journey. One of the readings was from Psalm 32. Consider these words from David…
Psalm 32:1–2 (ESV)
1 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
This man knows about forgiveness. This man knows about mercy. He knows that true happiness is possible for the one who has been forgiven…much. In a grief recovery group we cover the topic of forgiveness. We discuss how forgiveness involves giving up the hope for a different yesterday or better past. We discuss how forgiveness involves letting go of resentment towards another person or situation over an injury. We discuss how forgiveness is really for our benefit and not the other. We are the ones punishing ourselves with anger when we harbor an unforgiving attitude. The dictionary entry for forgiveness is to stop feeling angry or resentful toward someone over a fault. If God has forgiven us then He has released us from our past. If God has forgiven us then He harbors no resentment or anger towards us. If God has forgiven us then we are indeed blessed. So are we happy?
Right now what is your view of God? Is He angry with you over your sin? Is He resentful toward you over your past history? If that is the case then you are probably not a happy person and nor is your spirituality healthy. If that is the case then your view of God is not very forgiving or Biblical.
Have you noticed how suffering can lead us to the cross of Christ in ways that nothing else can? Our suffering reminds us that God’s entire engagement with the world focused on his radical scandalous grace that came through the Father’s suffering Son. This grace culminated and found full expression in the surrender of His son to death on the cross. Who would ever imagine the perfect expression of the love of God would be the brutal crucifixion of God’s son? God’s heart was fixed on this radical surrender to suffering from eternity past. Continue Reading
Seeing is a creative activity. It influences what it sees based on how it sees. This is obvious when we think about life. For example, a parents’s gaze into the eye of a child can be life-giving or life-taking. Another example … if I look on someone as a threat, I will act out of that threat and my actions will influence the situation (i.e. I will create a confrontational relationship with that person). When I look at another I can actually harden their heart by how I look at them. I can alter another’s emotions based on how I see them. How I see becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Every time we look at another we help create who they are and are becoming.
The God who sees sees in love. His seeing is an act of love. God embraces, affirms, and embraces since God hates nothing that God has created out of love. God sees our True Self in Christ, our possibilities and calls us to live into it.
The person who has sinned and can find no escape from a tr0ubled conscience is comforted when someone who loves is able, without the slightest presumption, to shed light on the sinners self-deception, to release and fortify the will, and open up new ways and possibilities. Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.” This is possible only because of His loving look. His gaze frees us from our compulsions, defenses, selfishness, and sin. His gaze makes possible the fruit of the Spirit flurishing.
By looking at me God enables me to live into what I cannot be on my own. My soul lives on the loving gaze of God. Contemplative prayer opens my soul to the gaze of God who is for me. Contemplative prayer lets me see the gaze of my heavenly Father who looks at me as He looks at the Son. In His loving gaze I am transformed.
As I am changed I can be an instrument of change for others. I can see them as God sees them. Can I look at another without letting their mess mess up how I sees them. This is our challenge.
Almost 40 years ago a pastor in Mansfield, Ohio shared his ‘rule of life’ with me. Every day he answered three questions: 1) What did I say to God?; 2) What did God say to me?; and 3) What am I going to do in light of what was said?
It seemed rather straight-forward. And it many ways it is. His ‘rule of life’ meant he had to pray, listen (in meditation and contemplation), and then respond in some fashion. He said the hardest of the three was listening! But it seemed to be the most important for him. Listening purged his soul of his psychological defenses which were disguised within his religious life. Listening helped him be confident of his response (many times the best response was no response until he was sure he had truly heard God and not simply his own agenda).
I am reminded of the words of the prophet Isaiah who promised, “Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and afflication for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes, and you will hear a voice say, ‘This is the way; turn around and walk here'” (Isaiah 30:20-21).
Today I long to be sensitive to the voice of God so that I respond well.
Contemplation is more a matter of our listening than of our speaking. It is a slowing of soul to the conversation initiated by God. As we listen we are broken open to ourselves because we are open to God. Or to put it another way, the nearer we draw to God as God (rather than as we want God to be) the clearer we see ourselves as we are (rather than as we want ourselves to be). The process is both comforting and confronting. We see ourselves as beloved sinners. We live far short of the ‘glory’ intended for us yet we are loved by the Father as much as He loves His Son.
Both realities are difficult to embrace. This kind of love is uncontrollable. This kind of failure feels unconsolable (see Isaiah 6). But if we will slow our souls to see and listen to God, the paradox of contemplation will yield its good fruit. We are slowly changed at the core of our being. This is what we most desperately need though our ‘false self’ fears it. Somehow it knows its influence on our soul is being diminished through its slow death. And slow deaths are never easy.
But if we stay with the process our way of perceiving, processing, and ‘presenting’ ourselves to others changes. Usually it means a ‘gentling’ within our relationships (the fruit of the Spirit that is called kindness). And a greater faith in the daily presence of God in our lives. Always it is a life lived more from one’s ‘true self’ (which is the life of Christ lived uniquely in and through us).
Jesus lived trinitarian love when He came earth. It was self-emptying (the Greek term is kenosis … see Philippians 2:5-9). Such is the nature of Trinitarian love. The Father pours Himself into the Son, the Son into the Father, the Spirit being the bond of love between them (John 10).
This is the love into which we are invited to abide (John 15). And the promise is that no act of kenosis is ever isolated or wasted no matter how meaningless or unproductive it may seem. Rather it grounds us in the very being of God who is love. Whenever and wherever kenosis is expressed it is a tiny hologram of the Trinity.
Do we dare risk such self-emptying? Can we? Not without deep metanoia (change of consciousness). Only then does the ‘mind of Christ’ become our way of being. This is the invitation of the contemplative life … living into who we are in Christ. Such surrender, such risk, such relationality bears the fruit of the Spirit.
New Covenant promises encourage us at the New Year. “I know the Plans I have for you. They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer 29:11). God is for us. Good News as we begin a new decade.
And how should we respond to the ‘good plans’ God has for us? “If you look for me in earnest, you will find me when you seek me. I will be found by you,”… says the Lord. The best response is to seek God in every aspect of our life. Because God promises to be found.
God wants to be found more than we want to seek. So seek God on this first day of the New Year.
Rich, Sallie, Joy, and Jim wish you the very best this New Year!