Thursday, March 27, 2014

Spirit Suppression

I just picked up Henri Nouwen's book, In the Name of Jesus.  I have never read anything by Nouwen, but his name is very familiar to me.  My friends who seem to have a daily, intimate experience with Jesus often mention his writings.  Having heard this book mentioned in a sermon podcast, I found a free .pdf of the book and began to read.

Only a few paragraphs into the introduction, Nouwen wonders if he is suppressing the Holy Spirit.  I had to click off my iPad.  I already had enough to chew on.

Of course I am suppressing the Holy Spirit.  That is the source of nearly all my problems.  I suppress him, ignore him, forget him.  How many days do I endure, never really thinking about his presence in my life?  I suppress the Holy Spirit, and my life is the worse because of that.
An old iron mine in SW Virginia

Tears rolled down my face this morning as I wondered how much my life would be different, if only I would repent of suppressing him.  My life would be more exciting, fulfilling, rewarding, effective, real, genuine, joyful, dangerous, and free.

Lord, please forgive me for stifling your presence in my soul.  Help me change my heart.  I want to be real.  I want to live.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Everything You've Worked For

I recently heard a commercial for a financial advisor firm, urging listeners to be careful with their retirement savings.  (Of course they are the ones who can really take care of your money.)  The announcer described the tragedy of being careless with "everything you've worked for."

Obviously he is talking about financial investments, but the real tragedy would be spending all of one's life working only for money.  If everything I have worked for has a price tag, I am the poorest of men.  I hope that my retirement savings ranks near the bottom of the things I have worked for.

All of the material things in life will disappear.  Only relationships will last forever.  That's what I want to be working for.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

No Pain, No Problem

The Little Red Hen understood the real world.  She asked for help as she planted, nurtured, harvested, milled and baked.  No one cared about helping with the work.  Everyone wanted to enjoy the freshly baked bread.  She rightly allowed only those who worked for the bread to  Sadly, she ate alone.  She understood that pleasure and responsibility go hand in hand. 
enjoy it.

These connections are self-evident to those steeped in the Protestant work ethic.  The pleasure of sex brings the responsibility of commitment and potential parenthood.  The pleasure of leisure comes after the responsibility of work.  The pleasure of beachfront property brings the responsibility of preparing for storm damage.  The “pleasure” of poor health choices creates the responsibility of dealing with diabetes, heart disease, lung cancer, or cirrhosis of the liver. 

Unfortunately today’s culture works constantly to sever pleasure from responsibility.  Pregnant and don’t want to be?  There’s a pill for that.  Hung over?   There’s a pill for that.  Sleepy?  Have an energy drink.  Distracted?  Choose your ADHD med.  Negative consequences must be avoided at all costs, even at the cost of human life.  The consequences of recreational sex, laziness, poor judgment, poor health choices, and economic risk must not be felt.  (This is actually part of the contemporary doctrine that all suffering must be avoided.)  Some corporations are too big to fail, so the taxpayers bail them out.  When hurricanes destroy their homes, uninsured property owners receive interest free, government guaranteed loans.  Many able-bodied adults choose not to work but collect electronic benefits transfer (EBT) payments every month.  Millions of babies die each year when abortion is used as birth control.  Though intended to help people, these pills and policies harm the individual and society.  They interfere with natural cause and effect.

Yet well-parented children know that the pleasure of a snow day means school work must be done at another time.  They know that chores come before play.  They know that living in a family obligates children and adults to help run the household.  This connection of pleasure with responsibility reflects the “real world.”  However, through science, marketing, and government programs, our society works to create the life of pleasure with no responsibility.  The real world is too cruel, so we must save people from it.  This sounds as appealing as having ice cream for breakfast and a staff of servants to do all the chores.  It might seem good in the short run, but ultimately someone must pay for it.  The servants must be paid, and poor health comes from a sugar-rich diet.

Therapists deal with those deprived of the proper pleasure/responsibility balance in childhood.  Those with no pleasure have been overworked; they have been robbed of their childhoods.  Meanwhile, those with no responsibility have never had to work; they never mature beyond childhood.

Our society moves steadily toward the latter.  Fewer people take responsibility because fewer people have to.  Looking at today’s pro sports, government, and prime time television, one must ask the same question:  Where are all the grownups?  There must be a pill for that.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hungry, Thirsty

Jesus said that those are blessed who hunger and thirst for righteousness; they will be filled.

I'm acquiring the taste.  It takes lots of time with Jesus.  He changes my frame of mind.  He reveals the truth to me.  He does fill me.  I'm only beginning to understand.  I'm learning how to pray.

I'm working to shape my life around that hunger and thirst, for him, for his word, for his presence.  I don't want to miss a spiritual meal.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Come on, Spring!

I love snow.  Actually, I love all the seasons.  I think I'm through with this one now.  I have actually lost count of all the snow/ice events this year. 

I have built two snowmen, had snowball fights, and almost went sledding.  I have walked across a frozen pond (Do not attempt.  Professional driver on closed course.), slipped and fallen, taken lots of frozen creek pictures, woken up in a cold cabin with frozen water, watched winter Olympics.

I like winter. 

Today, I felt the warm, cool breeze across a yard of snow, as temperatures climbed into the 60s.  Yep, I'm ready for spring.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

We don't get it...

As I read through the New Testament during Lent, I'm in the book of Matthew now.  It seems that everything Jesus says is contrary to normal thinking.
  • People in bad shape are blessed. (5:3-10)
  • Don't resist an evil person. (5:39)
  • Love your enemies. (5:44)
  • Don't worry about your needs. (6:25)
  • Lepers are healed. (8:3)
  • God's Son has no house to live in. (8:20)
  • Jesus came not to bring peace, but a sword. (10:34)
  • To find your life, you have to lose it. (10:39)
This life to which Jesus calls us is way different from normal life.  Its power comes from heaven, not earth.  Its perspective is God's not man's.  It makes no sense in the earthly scheme of things.

So Jesus tells us that we don't really get it, when it comes to this business of life.  We naturally seek the wrong things.  We naturally protect ourselves.  We naturally try to impress others.  We naturally accumulate stuff.

But real life comes through trusting God, not just for eternal salvation, but for the necessities of life, our safety, and our reputations.  We can trust God with it all, through Jesus.

Only through his power can we live this way.  And through his power, we can.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Focus on the Father

Before Jesus began his ministry, he went into the wilderness where he was tempted by the devil.  He had been fasting for 40 days, spending time with the Father.  Then the devil shows up.  But Jesus was ready.  He was ready for spiritual battle.

So, in the 40 days of Lent, we are preparing for spiritual battle.  We practice self denial, so that we can focus on the Father. 

Celebrating Easter is richer when we're ready.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Not so Sweet

To experience Lent, I have decided to give up desserts.  I may even give up sweets entirely until Easter.  I have been learning that sugar may actually be addictive, and this seems like a good time to break the addiction.  And it will be a sacrifice.  I do like sweets.

Notice that I did give myself an out.  If I wait an hour or so after a meal, then it's not technically dessert, right?  Sometimes I wish I were not so good at rationalizations.

My wife just offered me a Reese's Cup.  Yeah, I'll have one.
 My last one for a while.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Leaning into Lent

The season of preparation for Easter begins this week with Ash Wednesday on March 5.  I don't always dive into Lent, but I see the importance of spiritual disciplines more clearly now than ever.  This is a good occasion to open myself up to all that God wants to show me, about himself and about myself.  I'm praying for God to show me how to celebrate.  What will I give up for Lent?

Traditionally, Christians have celebrated 40 days prior to Easter in a season known as Lent.  The term "lent" comes from the German word for "long," as the days become longer in the spring.  The 40-day period does not include Sundays, so the Lenten season is actually 46 days long, including Easter Sunday.

At Ash Wednesday services, some believers have ashes smeared onto their foreheads in the shape of a cross.  The ashes represent repentance, harkening back to biblical repentance "in sackcloth and ashes." 

There were intervals of fasting in the early Lenten practices.  Today as part of the Lenten season, believers will often choose to sacrifice something, whether it is food or something else.  The sacrifice reminds us of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for our sins, and our surrender to him opens us to the work of God in our lives.

Some may choose to forgo eating on every Friday (or other day) during Lent. 

Here are a few other suggestions of things you may consider giving up for lent:
  • Social media
  • Dessert
  • Television
  • Chocolate
  • Soda
  • Alcohol
  • Fast food
  • Shopping
  • Snack foods
  • Coffee
  • Bread
  • Texting
  • Movies
The point is to do something with your body that draws you closer to Jesus.  You may start a habit you keep forever!