Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Empty and Full

When I was in high school I once read the entire Bible. I would read a little bit every single night before I fell asleep and rarely missed a day. In fact, sometimes if I missed a day I would have a really hard time sleeping and would wake up in the middle of the night to read. I heard a lot of sermons about the importance of daily devotion to God, of having a "quiet time." All of those sermons came from a place of Truth and those speakers were trying to instill in me a desire to be devoted to God.

There's got to be more to it. Trying to contain a relationship with God in a 10 minute window is harder than taming a lion. The God that compelled some men to leave everything they had and move to caves in the desert is surely more than can be contained in your morning devotional. The prayers you recite before family meals and as you drift to sleep might seem to be a healthy level of communication, but there's so much you're missing.

A commitment to advanced prayer is a commitment to advanced joy. The first thing you have to do is challenge your beliefs. For me this comes easily. I'm naturally cynical and my unbelief can be hard to overcome. Comfort is the enemy of sanctification, so you have to challenge any form of comfort you feel. For me, reading uncomfortable books or watching videos that challenge beliefs I take for granted are ways I keep my faith on the forefront of my thinking. Even still, that won't bring you face to face with God the way one spiritual discipline will.

Don't eat.

Fasting removes your masks. It breaks down every wall between you and the Creator you've knowingly or unknowingly constructed and forces you to reconcile your hunger for food with your hunger for God. One of the desert fathers said that once we give in to gluttony, every other type of sin was sure to follow. To him, being able to control his desire for food taught him everything he needed to know about what he really "needed."

When I fast, I like to go on walks or spend time outside alone. I do this because fasting heightens my senses and my awareness of God around me, so being in His Creation will have a tremendous effect on the success of my fast. Listening to the wind blow through my ears while I pray and walk brings me to the feet of the loving Christ faster than a quick read through a chapter of Scripture in the morning ever could. God is out there, he is moving and speaking and easy to hear. When I remove something as "essential" as food from my life, I am compelled to see God more. There's just more room for Him.

Advanced prayer, advanced joy.

Breaking the fast can have as much of an effect on me as any moment of the fast. Celebration, eating and drinking and laughing with friends, is a reminder of the gifts God has given to me. The fast reminds you of how blessed you are, how much you have, and how little you did to deserve or earn it. You never know how good gas is until you have an empty tank, and you never appreciate a good meal until you are starving. God is present in absence, He works in your rest, and He sustains you because He loves you.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

There's Something About Him

We sat in a room in a hotel in Laguna Beach. Each of us had some gnawing creative ambition we were unable to capture on our own. Each of the 40-plus people sitting there was willing to participate openly in conversations aimed at helping other people figure out what it is they need to say. I had never met anyone in that room and yet felt connected to each of them within minutes of meeting them. We were from all over the country and came from different backgrounds, philosophies, and traditions yet something made it easy for us to get along.

I traveled over a thousand miles to talk to people about something I am trying to capture in a book. There's this desire inside of me to see a new Mysticism capture the Church and set the world on fire, and no one in that room thought I was weird. No one thought I was out of line or coming from left field. My hunger was matched by a room full of empty bellies, each of us looking to make the weak strong and explain Grace to a confused world. I can't count how many times someone would share his heart and I'd think, "this dude gets it."

We met because there is something about Jesus. Something makes Him so compelling, so captivating we have to tell people about Him. We find joy in the story of God, the single plan to save people through His son--a plan set in motion through the strangest of vessels. We find the need to focus on Jesus, to rediscover what Merton called "the End of all things." Without a focus on the End, our beginnings are useless. Without focusing on the Beginning Word, our ends won't ever come to be. How can he be the Beginning and the End? Somehow Jesus is the cause and the effect, the wheel and the road.

St. Bonaventure said that Christ is "both the way and the door. Christ is the staircase and the vehicle, like the throne of mercy over the Ark of the Covenant, and the mystery hidden from the ages."

There's something about Him.

Something that can bring people together from all over the country to talk about this hunger in their bellies. Something that can make me want to sit in front of a keyboard and bleed for hours writing a book or blog post. Something that makes pastors stand in front of a crowd and tell them about a Love they are only beginning to understand themselves.

I sat in the Pacific trying to learn to surf. I wanted more than anything to stand on a surfboard and ride a wave into shore. That didn't quite happen. Even in the meager time I found myself up on a board, I felt a sensation unlike anything I've ever experienced, it was strikingly similar to the feeling I got hanging around a group committed to the "something" we see in Jesus. The feeling of complete surrender to a wave that is intent on finding the shore.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bringing Many Sons to Glory

In the past few weeks, I have been around the world. I went to a country closed to Christian ministry and met with amazing students there. Daily I am reminded of how crazy the past year of my life has been and how unpredictable God's plans are. I was overwhelmed with this fact while sitting on the tarmac at the Doha, Qatar airport--I have no clue where I am headed in life. 
But that's a good thing. I have hitched my wagon to Jesus Christ and His teachings. From the standpoint of a mystic, nothing else is important once an encounter with the universal, unequaled, unconditional love of God has been made, and It's my desire to share this experience with as many as possible. Everyone should feel this love that shares in their pain, takes away their shame, and washes away their faults. While some would say Heaven and Hell are at stake, I am more worried that life itself is at stake.
This life. 
This day.
What you're doing right now is at stake. Your life is either drenched with grace or barren. Your self-worth is either tied up in meaningless accomplishments or is a testament to the beauty best expressed in Hebrews 2:10-11
God, for whom and through whom everything was made, chose to bring many children into glory. And it was only right that he should make Jesus, through his suffering, a perfect leader, fit to bring them into their salvation. So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters.
Brothers and sisters! For too long people have preached a Christianity that is basically taking the chains that once bound you to sin and attaching them to a list of rules. There was nothing cool, fun, or original about this faith. It was the same series of rituals and laws that Jesus freed us from--that's what salvation was really all about. Now, I pray that people see Christianity for what it is: following Jesus. Your self-worth is tied to your status as a brother or sister to the perfect leader who was fit to bring us to salvation. As scary as it can be to drop what you are doing and follow Jesus, life will be better-and that is what is really at stake. 

About Drew

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A follower of Jesus, trying to build myself and others up from the inside out.