Thursday, April 18, 2013

Rediscovering Wonder

How much do you believe in miracles? Everyone who says he or she is a Christian is someone who believes in miracles to some extent, or do they? I mean, you believe that a man died and then rose from the dead.

You believe that this man was actually also God.
You believe that the death and resurrection of this God-man atoned for the sins of mankind.

So already, everytime you attend a church service and profess belief in this miracle, you should be thought of as a person who believes in miracles.

Until someone claims God healed their cancer.
Until someone tells you God spoke to them.
Until someone tells you God is calling them to do something drastic.

Why do we suspend our belief in a supernatural God who does supernatural things when that God helps us or someone in our group of friends? If a man walked into your church and announced that God had healed his wife of cancer miraculously, would your first thought be "Well, God gave doctors their gifts and talents so in a way that might be true?" If so, repent of that.

We believe in two worlds, a physical and a spiritual. We believe in a mystical, eastern faith based on the facts of God's transcendence into the natural order and beyond the natural order. We believe in a Savior who, after He rose from the dead, told His followers they would do and see greater things than He.

St. Francis once saved a village from a wolf who was menacing the villagers. He approached the wolf in the woods and spoke to it, making an arrangement with it to not attack the villagers or their livestock if they promised to put food out for it. "Brother wolf," as St. Francis called him, bowed to Francis and placed his paw in the saint's hand as a sign of agreement.

I know many of you are going to immediately draw the line at becoming God's Dr. Doolittle. Most of you will probably say this story is bogus. The story of Francis and the wolf of Gubbio is one of the most well-known stories of the saint. It was recorded by historians of his day as well as other events from his life. That said, if we throw out stories like this one, how much of Saint Francis' life are we to throw out? If the same historians who recorded this story as "history" also wrote other, more "believable" stories about St. Francis, do we throw those stories out too?

St. Peter, under the power of the Holy Spirit, healed a paralyzed man. That story is recorded in the book of Acts. Do we believe that story simply because it's canonical? Do we throw out any miracle that didn't occur in the Bible because someone with "the Apostle" before his name didn't write about it? Did God just stop doing miracles?

I believe in miracles. As I attempt to curb my cynicism and embrace the mystical, I am learning more about the God I serve: a God who really enjoys invading the natural world and shaking things up a bit. This God has acted throughout history and the Bible is record of those actions. This God didn't stop acting because John finished writing Revelation and so there was nothing more to be done. This God is continuing the work that STARTED on the cross, and is not content with allowing people to live mundane, fruitless lives devoid of wonder or mystery.

Run back to it. Run back to the child-like acceptance of miracles. Return to the mystery of God's continual dance throughout space and time.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

People are Confused

The more news coverage I watch concerning the aftermath of the explosions in Boston a few days ago, the more I realize how confused people are. Too many of us have confused violence with "peace-making."

Trust me, this isn't me taking the time to get on my pacifist soap-box and chastise anyone looking for violent revenge for these heinous acts. That would be inappropriate. The person or group of people behind these attacks have already made it clear how confused they are. Nothing else is apparent except this unmistakable fact: this attack accomplished nothing. The people of Boston didn't cower in fear, they responded with courage. The US didn't disintegrate into a panic, life continued the next day as scheduled for many of us.

In almost every mass demonstration of homicidal lunacy such as this one, the frivolous and useless nature of the attack never seems to cross the mind of the attacker. The Centennial Park bomb in Atlanta was a horrific crime, yet people continue to use that park and enjoy it while the bomber will spend the rest of his life in a dark cell underground in Colorado. The OKC bomb was the most brutal act of domestic terror in the history of the nation, yet the story didn't end with the government being overthrown or the people of Oklahoma cowering in terror. Any mind that is warped enough to think blowing up innocent people is going to accomplish anything positive is beyond the understanding of reality.

The sensationalist nature of the news coverage isn't new either. This is business as usual. The world continued to spin, the sun came up in the east again, and the news continued to rush to be the first to report something as fact without confirming it.

I guess what I am trying to convey with this post is this: violence can't win. No ideal is worth killing people over. Nothing is accomplished with attacks on the innocent. Most importantly, there is something, someone, who holds all things together and He gets the final say. His final say will be one of Love, Mercy, and Compassion because the new Kingdom--the one I already serve in this life--has no room for bombs or bombers.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Wisdom From a Master

I have many spiritual directors in my life, and many of them are dead. I think it is still necessary and important to read the ancient writings of spiritual masters because the human life hasn't changed nearly as much as we might think. People haven't gotten more in tune with reality even though we have more information and more complicated relationships and more ways to eat frozen yogurt.

Taking the hand of an ancient wisdom is a way to slow your life down a step or two, joining with centuries of other seekers in learning from masters sent to us from the Master. One of these people is a man named Thomas à Kempis. He wrote a book in the 1400's called The Imitation of Christ that will knock you on your tail.

Recently I was thinking about the act of living in solitude in a world full of noise. I'm not sure if a life of complete solitude is the healthiest life for a Christian to live, nor am I sure it achieves the task charged to the follower in Christ's commission to spread the good news of God's redeeming love for every single person. However, solitude and meditation are extremely important for any spiritual life. The monks, and people like Thomas à Kempis knew that and found complete communion with Christ in their solitude. In his writing, I may have found the balance needed to solve my problem. In The Imitation of Christ, Thomas, in a fit of inspiration, describes what he calls "the interior life." A life of solitude is possible even among community. A life of solitude is possible even in a crowd.

Thomas reminds us that the Kingdom of God is within you (Luke 17:21), so turn inward and find God. Learn to despise external things and you'll see the blessings of the Lord and the Kingdom of God come upon you. If we are devoted inwardly, we will see Christ. Thomas wrote, "His visits with the inward man are frequent, His communion sweet and full of consolation, His peace great, and His intimacy wonderful indeed."

Too often we concern ourselves with busyness. Too often the schedule-makers and gate-keepers rob us of our joy. Thomas says, "a man is upset and distracted only in proportion as he engrosses himself in externals." Nothing is too important that it cannot wait for the spiritual person to collect him or herself and maintain a well-ordered union with the Kingdom. Christ told us to live by the Word of God and not to worry about the externals because He will take care of us. Discontent, my old nemesis, again rears its head. You can sum up the past few months in my spiritual journey as a battle for contentment, a struggle for satisfaction in the now, and a wrestling match with wanderlust.

This world cares about deadlines and schedules and reports, not the Kingdom. It's important to be useful and faithful where God has you, but not more important than your inner connection with God. A truly interior man or woman is free from uncontrolled emotions and has the ability to turn immediately to God, rise above the noise, and find peace. Isn't that worth fighting for with all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our strength? When you are full of the Kingdom of God, you'll overflow and the "good deeds" we earnestly try to accomplish will be much easier to find. Interior joy can only be found if we tie our affection for the things of the world to a giant rock and throw it into the crystal clear ocean of Grace.

About Drew

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