Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Simple

(written on 3/16/17 in the Sonoran Desert somewhere north of Benson)

So back into the desert again for my yearly rhythm of wilderness, solitude, silence and listening. I came again, as I do each time, with some books for reading, a hymn book, journal, and some notes to help me embark on my discipline of resting, sitting, reading, writing .... This year I came eager to get direction, insights, to be challenged, connected, encouraged and renewed and was waiting on "what would the Lord show me this year?"

            The answer ... Nothing New!

In my journal from last year, at the end of the week I wrote that I felt the Lord saying,

            "Chris, just pay attention to Me."

It was like the parent who is trying to settle down the child who is running all over the place and unable to hear their parent's voices. I jotted down a couple action points, 2-3 things I believed I should be doing in addition to just making more space to pay attention to Jesus.

Now I am hearing the same thing again - likely because I didn't really pay attention this past year to the extent He longed for me to but also, perhaps, because that is simply the central thing that I should always be focused on.  Could it not only be our central calling but even our only calling.  "Just pay attention to Me," He says, "and everything else will follow." The Lord is patient and just keeps beckoning - pay attention, sit with Me...

Is it really as simple as "pay attention to Me?" It reminds me of the disciples on the Mt. of Transfiguration when the Father said "This is my Son, listen to Him!" That's straightforward and clear! We hear in other places as well - "draw near to Me" or "remain in Me" or "seek first the Kingdom."

A simple plan - clear, focused, inviting - hard to do for hurried souls like mine. What would the year look like if my first and foremost "agenda" item and the guiding element for each day was "pay attention to Him", "abide in Him"? This is more than "devotions" of course - it is a frame of mind and heart that connects all my moments.

From Calvin Miller: "The highest kind of obedience does not come from always asking, "What will You have me to do?" but in the moment-by-moment rehearsal of our love for Christ."

Friday, March 10, 2017

solitude

As a church we are going through a mini series on Spiritual Disciplines; this weekend is on solitude. Following the service I am going on my annual trek out into the Sonoran Desert to "flee, be silent, pray always." Sounds very spiritual and committed! In preparation I though I would sit down and do a short blog on the value of solitude. I got to my blog site... embarrassing and revealing! It has been almost a year since my last post which I sent just prior to my last trip in the desert!! Good intentions of faithfully writing and also following up on what God invited me to the last time have apparently fallen by the side of the road.  I came away from the last trip with the words of God echoing in my mind,  "Chris, just pay attention to me!" Spoken with force, longing and grace. Now a year later and I am about to spend another week in the desert. Different building this time as the former place is deteriorating - the new one - still isolated looks like a luxury compared to the usual.

So what has the past year brought - what has come from His speaking to me? If measured in activity and accomplishment - I suppose it has been a full and fruitful year. If measured in depth of relationships, having a stilled and listening heart, being above all things attentive to my Lord ... I don't think I measure up too well.

It is remarkable how clearly we can sometimes hear the beckoning voice of God and how it rings so true and yet move along through the moments of our days, months, a year ... and give our best attention to everything but....!

So once again I return to the desert to let God do surgery on my life as T. Merton describes.

“Society . . . was regarded [by the Desert Fathers] as a shipwreck from which each single individual man had to swim for his life. . . . These were men who believed that to let oneself drift along, passively accepting the tenets and values of what they knew as society, was purely and simply a disaster."

That happens to me everyday as I  choose activity over intimacy, demands over longings, the urgent rather than the essential. The follow up, of course, is to the enter back into society and community and ministry and family; but re-entering renewed and reshaped and that should impact everything around me.  To this end I am seeking his heart as I let Him develop for me a "Rule of Life" in order to bring the rhythms and clarity of the desert into my everyday ordinary moments. To bring solitude into today, not just one week a year.

So may these words of Henri Nouwen mark our alone times with Jesus:

“We enter into solitude first of all to meet our Lord and to be with him and him alone. Our primary task in solitude, therefore, is not to pay undue attention to the many faces which assail us, but to keep the eyes of our mind and heart on him who is our divine savior. Only in the context of grace can we face our sin; only in the place of healing do we dare to show our wounds; only with a single-minded attention to Christ can we give up our clinging fears and face our own true nature. As we come to realize that it is not we who live, but Christ who lives in us, that he is our true self, we can slowly let our compulsions melt away and begin to experience the freedom of the children of God”

Excerpt From: Henri J. M. Nouwen. “The Way of the Heart.”

Saturday, April 16, 2016

receive

The weekend we are on Matthew 5:17-20 and are discovering that the righteousness the Lord calls is to is a righteousness that is completely different from the Scribes and Pharisees - it is a righteousness RECEIVED - not worked for. I have spent the better part of my life creating a righteousness of my own devising, working it out in my own strength - it is exhausting and unfulfilling even though it often earns pats on the back and the words "well done" by those around me. Jesus came and offers His righteousness - He just wants to dress me in it - receive.

My family gets frustrated buying me gifts because usually if I need something I just go get it. They try to figure out what I need and of course I have already taken care of it - on my own and so I miss receiving. Its how I live - do it myself - do it well - believing all along that this is what God wants of me - that what I offer earns His praise. What a terrible lie to have believed for so long. He offers something so much better.

This week I am heading out into the desert for my yearly time of solitude and silence. As I have reflected back in preparation for going I have realized that I o to be still and listen and I end up bringing a bunch of work to accomplish and a list of tasks to do.... and the I miss Him. I have been asking today as I pack to go, "why are you bringing me out to the desert, Lord?" The answer I am hearing is - "Chris, its not to do more work, rather its to cast off the lie and instead receive. Receive My righteousness, My undeserved acceptance, receive My deep delight in you, give it a rest and let Me do the work in and through you."Once again I am reminded - intimacy before ministry. Receive!

My All in Thee

Lyrics by Charles Wesley and Eric J. Marshall

When gracious Lord, when shall it be
That earth will find her all in Thee?
The fullness of Thy promise, prove
Seal me with Thy eternal love

Thee, only Thee I'm fain to find
I cast the world and sin behind
O my Redeemer, hear this plea
And let me find my all in Thee

Show me Your Way, my love, my Lord
Draw me to grace, so strong and sure
I run to Your mercy, where I am free
Let me find my all in Thee

Lord I am blind, be Thou my sight
Lord I am weak, be Thou my might
A helper of the helpless be
And let me find my all in Thee

Show me Your Way, my love, my Lord
Draw me to grace, so strong and sure
I run to Your mercy, where I am free
Let me find my all in Thee

Please mend my soul, my frame, my life
A contrite heart, Thou won't despise
Take now this pain and misery
And let me find my all in Thee

Show me Your Way, my love, my Lord
Draw me to grace, so strong and sure
I run to Your mercy, where I am free
Let me find my all in Thee

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

astonished

At the Vineyard we have begun our series "By Every Word" while at the same time embarking on a 40 day reading of the New Testament. Yesterdays reading was Luke 4:14-9:50 and the word astonished showed up three times! We had first seen it when Jesus was found teaching in the temple as a boy - his parents were astonished by what he said. Now in our reading it says they were ALL astonished. Although some other translations use the word amazed I have found that he word astonished has captured my attention.

I cannot remember the last time I was astonished. I could make the excuse that I haven't seen the miracles that were happening in these chapters of Luke but then there are daily  miracles in my life when I understand that "from Him, and through Him and to Him is everything." But there is more - they were astonished at His teaching. I have His teaching in front of me every day - speaking to me with His authority,,,, but I am not astonished by it.

So, today I am reflecting on my great lack of astonishment in the face of such good gifts as His constant care and work in my life and His Word. Perhaps it is as we considered last Sunday - I have just forgotten how much I need it - I have been too filled up with other things and it has dulled my appetite for His word and clouded my eyes to His work. Or perhaps I don't let the Word penetrate deep enough and don't readily give thanks for His work...

So Lord, today, "open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your word."ps. 119

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

By Every Word

In the middle of this month the Vineyard will begin our New Testament Immersion: a 40 day journey through the New Testament. As a church we will be reading through the whole New Testament and then having a variety of "hands on" opportunities to interact with one another over what the Spirit shows us as we read and wait on His Word. At the same time we will take a short 8 week break from our teaching series in Matthew and embark on a winter series titled: By Every Word in which we will look closely at what we really believe about the written revelation and examine how we can understand it and be transformed through our interactions with it.

I have been pondering recently about why I so dearly love the Word of God. From my earliest memories it has always been there. Coloring pages from Sunday School with the verse on top, family devotions as a child from Our Daily Bread, Bible memory contests in the boys Sunday School class at the Wheaton Evangelical Free Church, my Bible verse memory trophy from Awana, the Jr. high Bible quiz team. Do they still do those? There were also times of falling asleep as a little kid with my head on my Bible, my first leather bound Scofield Bible from my Dad that still sits tattered on my shelf, the old woman who sat next to me at Maranatha when I was 12 and showed me - from the Word- why I could know that I had eternal life. And there were those unforgettable times when I just heard a verse and began to weep or experience calling or conviction or when I shared a passage and saw the light go on in someone else's heart.

The Word has brought comfort, guidance, encouragement and answers. At times it has just overwhelmed me with pictures of God and other times it has sat unlooked at and I have been the poorer for it.


Man shall not live on bread alone but By Every Word! When I am not eating and chewing on and relishing in the good taste of the Word I begin to languish and doubt and ultimately become disoriented in this confusing world. When I take it in, I don't always understand it and it's flavors are sometimes foreign to me but it satisfies, ministers the presence of God in my life and it's voice is always familiar - the voice my God and my redeemer.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Learning My Own Sermon

Woke up on Thursday morning – asked the Lord to be in my day and committed myself to paying attention to Him in all of my ordinary moments – just as I had spent three weeks preaching about. – then off to the church office where I had blocked out the day to finish my message and some desk work. Of course this is “important” “valuable” work and time well spent!  Somewhere along about 1:30pm I just got stuck in my sermon prep and instead of working through it I decided to find a diversion – the men’s bathroom in the sanctuary needed a new float mechanism – maybe I will just do that …  Master plumber that I am I shut the water valve off by the back of the toilet, pulled out the float, put in a new one, reconnected the water line and turned the water valve back on – simple… except there wasn’t any water coming through. HMMM – turned the valve off again and pulled off the water line to see if it was clogged – nope – looks good, and then I noticed that there appeared to be something blocking the actual valve coming from the wall; that’s when it happened -  without warning – a couple pebbles along with the interior parts of the valve shot out the top of the valve followed by an unstoppable explosion of water halted only by the ceiling of the bathroom!! I turned the valve shut – but it just spun round and round as the bathroom began filling with water. In a feat of incredible strength I stopped the water with my left thumb, grabbed my wet cell phone and began dialing the office upstairs – no answer! So I began to shout for help in between the occasional moments I could not hold the water back and it would blast up in my face.  Finally I just let go and raced upstairs for the water box key, back down the stairs and outside to shut off the water and then back inside only to see water pouring out into the sanctuary – wrong valve –back outside, around the building and finally shut it down…..




Completely soaked I began to mop up the mess which also included the basement bathroom since the water had found its way down there through the ceiling… I went over to see the Ace “helpful hardware man” down the street  - I didn’t even have to tell him the problem as he looked at me – completely soaking wet holding out the old valve. That was embarrassing! Back to church, a couple trips up and down the stairs and I replaced the valve – all is well again – I better get back to ”valuable” work at my desk… except that somewhere along the line I had locked my keys in my office!  GRRR! Using a credit card – a trick I learned in college – I finally got the door open – 15 minutes later.

I could say things got better as I applied myself to my work but it didn’t. I was so wet I didn’t want to sit at my desk – and I wasn’t of a very spiritual mind at the moment anyways – so back to another diversion – the kitchen sink drain in the Discipleship House had been draining super slow. All I can say is that after much investigation I discovered that just under the sink cover plate there was probably 30 years of buildup completely blocking any drainage – I would include a picture but it was far too disturbing  for public distribution– I scooped it out,  - yuck - scrubbed it down and got it running clean and free again.

Back at my desk – after several hours – I sat down and started back into my message – we are on the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1. No wonder I was stuck.  This was not how this day was supposed to go – have I done anything of value?  I read though the genealogy again – lists of people, generations, some very faithful and some not so nice and more than a few who were of a very poor reputation … and then Jesus!    I was suddenly reminded of all these lives lived, lives full of opportunities, failures, strengths, weaknesses and years and years of ordinary moments…. And Jesus was born into that family tree and into those same moments and moved through His days like us, and probably experienced ordinary, maddening days like mine had been. Their stories were much like ours and the genealogy showed that the Lord was in those lives and days All the moments are part of the whole picture, part of my shaping,, all enfolded into God’s greater story.

Then I remembered our series on “Sanctification of the Ordinary” – that all our work was of value and how we were reminded to use the ordinary moments – even the difficult and frustrating ones – as an opportunity to turn freshly to Jesus – to see Him in all those places and also to learn to stop amidst all the moments and remember that He is the one who does the work – to be refreshed in the stopping.

And so finally I stopped and rested and reflected and listened.  Sermon prep, toilet and drain repairs, locked doors, wet trips to the hardware store – all were gifts –opportunities to pay attention to Him, to be more like Him, to reflect Him no matter what work I was doing.

I Cor. 10:31 -    So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God.


Sunday, April 12, 2015

entrance

Watch the video to the left and enjoy this - beautiful!

Entrance - Liz Vice

There you were hanging, transforming the pain into
Entrance into your heart
Before we could come in, you had to destroy within
The dark that kept us apart
Before we had heard of you, but had no concern for you
Darkness was all around
The wall was so high, no way to get by
But then you tore it all down

We crossed the threshold and death lost his control
As the sun rose in our hearts
We felt the warm embrace, of your sovereign grace
Now, every day we can start
To live and love with you, follow and worship you
With songs that flow from our soul.
Filled with the light of you, as we are led by you
Longing with joy to be home

Jesus come, take our hand
Lead us into the promise land (X4)