Posts in Christian Spirituality
Peace in Chaos...
If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.
– Jesus, Luke 19:42

Every desire for something externally is an expression of something lacking internally. 

There have been many times when, after an exhausting week, all I've desired to do is lie on my couch all day and watch stupid TV. I'm tired, drained, and irritable and I just want to shut off my brain. Often though, once I've had my way, I'm no better off than I was. Still tired, drained, and irritable! That time ends and all I want is another day to be lazy or do something else centered around how I feel (self-centeredness). Why is that?!

I'm realizing that when I get things that I want it rarely satisfies my reason for wanting them in the first place. I often choose shallow solutions to deep needs. 

Now when I'm tired, I try taking a deeper look at myself. Why am I tired? What exhausts me most? Why? What is lacking in my extremely overprivileged life that is tiring me out? It usually comes down to an question that only my soul can answer. Once I actually give it the time to do exactly that, my exhaustion silently lifts. The same thing can be applied to when I'm energetic too.

The point is: every desire for something external is an expression of something I lack internally. So, looking externally for peace, joy, love, gentleness, rest, or inspiration is starting in the reverse order. 

Once I get this right, I'm far less demanding of my circumstances, surroundings, friends, and family because I've dug down to the root of the issue, within my own heart. And that is where we will always find God's attention being drawn to: The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.
– Jesus, Luke 17:20&21
Everything is a spiritual practice...
...he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’
– Acts 17:27&28

One of the biggest first crisis' of faith I experienced was at the same age that nearly everyone has theirs. I was moving to Pasadena with friends and tired of limiting God's presence, meaning, or significance to church buildings. Either God was real and can be found everywhere or God is an idea and can only be found in certain buildings or people groups. I didn't see this type of faith being lived out or even really talked about in churches (although my Dad and I talked about it regularly over Sunday morning breakfasts, thank God) and it was the only thing that I was interested in.

Reading Brother Lawrence's small book The Practice of the Presence of God  when I was only 16 was what instigated this for me. It changed the whole direction of my life. Life is so doggedly inconsistent that if there is actually one thing which is consistent (God's presence), it must be worth all of my attention!

After 15 years of slowly growing and maturing in this perspective, I've learned that everything is a spiritual practice. Everything.

If Christ truly "is all and is in all," it leaves room for nothing else. Sitting, standing, talking, listening, walking, reading, writing, running, lying down, bathing, eating, observing, and resting are all moments when each of us are in the Presence of God. But what is our practice of It?

There are many areas of my life where my practice is distraction; to ignore Christ and Love and be centered around myself (self-centered) . It's what I do regularly and know best. There are other areas where I'm becoming more sensitive to Love and Life in all and through all. I've made it a practice to grow the number of these areas.

When we emphasize God's presence in one place or person or point in history, we simultaneously diminish his presences elsewhere. That, then, becomes our practice: worshiping one place or person or point in history. Everything is a spiritual practice: to participate or to ignore.

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.
– Colossians 3:11
There is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
– 1 Corinthians 8:6
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 
– Ephesians 4:4-6
Thank you for your sensitivity...
The fruit of the Spirit is love...kindness...
– Galatians 5:22

I'm so grateful for the sensitive people in my life. There are many of you that I'd like to thank for the encourage words and messages that came after my Father's Day post. It meant a great deal to me. I want to be more like you. 

Sensitivity is a Divine attribute, I believe. So, I never want to take it for granted. Thank you. My Father's Day was full of meaning, significance, and warmth.

Thelonious the Monk here finding a safe place in the midst of a lot of defensiveness.

There is a verse about sensitivity that a friend and I were talking about today. He is very sensitive and it is such a gift to me. The implication of this verse drastically changed my life:

Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality...
– Ephesians 4:19

Drawing a direct connection between sensitivity and sensuality was something I had never seen, heard, or thought of before. After having read it, my eyes were opened to seeing my being overly sensual as my truly being overly insensitive.

Of course, when we read "sensuality" we tend to limit it to regard only sexuality. That's a huge mistake. While it is a part of it, it means something much larger to me:

  • Sensitivity = the ability to see, feel, and know things (emotionally, physically, spiritually) as they are.
  • Sensuality = the limited ability to see, feel, and know things (emotionally, physically, spiritually) only as they pertain to me.  

The "sensuality" being referenced here is the self-centric expression of sensitivity. This plays out in every area of life. I see people interpret Scripture without any sensitivity and realize that there is sensuality behind their interpretation. That may sound weird, but it "feels good" to think we "know" something. When we "know" something and we feel good about it, we then feel okay to stop listening to any different opinion from others with any kind of sensitivity. We feel good about what we know! It's sensual, it's not spiritual.

What this has taught me is that sensitivity is a deep Christian value.  When I am self-centric in my actions, thoughts, and/or feelings, it sets off an alarm in my mind that I am in some way being insensitive to Christ and others. Being insensitive to the Life in all and through all is to miss out on having the "life and life more abundantly" that Jesus said he lived to give.

Sensitivity expands my life and the response I received from so many people after my last post really showed me that. Again, thank you! 

Unveiled Faces

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
– 2 Corinthians 3:18

This little verse has captured my imagination for years. "Unveiled faces..."

For years, I mistook my faith as veil that was placed over my "sinful and distorted" face; something that covered me and protected me, not uncovered me. That understanding left me feeling horribly discouraged about myself and other people. Today, my understanding is completely reversed.

The first thing my faith unveils is the reality of who I and everyone else really are:

"God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them."
– Genesis 1

So, this is who we are and why God calls for us to a spirituality of unveiling, not covering up. Because, before "original sin," before life happened to me, and before I made any decisions about myself, this was and is true. My anxieties, fears, and insecurities are veils over this truth and presence. They cover me and obscure my vision. It is sad to admit that I used Christianity as just another layer on top of them in an effort to satisfy their desperate needs. What a mistake.

My faith has been an unveiling of my face, my identity, and how I see others. It is about removing my layers of false identity and desperate needs for validation for the revelation of something that already resides within me.

Numb life doesn't = abundant life.

No one is ever united with Jesus Christ until they are willing to relinquish not sin only, but their whole way of looking at things.
– Oswald Chambers, My Upmost for His Highest

....That's not easy to read or really wrap my head around. You might say, it's the original inconvenient truth. Some might say, it sucks.

The things that we don’t question about ourselves are usually the areas where we are the most numb to the presence, design, and desire of God. Those places are usually the areas where we are content with ourselves. I’m not saying those areas are bad, but that they are areas where we live without any active, substantial, or meaningful reliance/connection with Christ.

Of course, we question our “big sins,” but we don’t think twice about what excites us and why. What are the things that I'm happy with? Why? What about them stirs up my happiness? Often, we'll be surprised by how self-centered the answers can be in areas like parenthood, marriage, friendships, work, volunteer work, church participation, et cetera.

Usually, when I’m unconsciously content with an area of my life it is because the needs of my self-centeredness and ego are being met. For instance, do I feel appreciated? When I do, I’m usually far less interested in doing what God appreciates (loving the stranger, my neighbor, and tending to the needy). The needs of my self-centeredness are being satisfied and it doesn’t even cross my mind to seek the love and presence of Christ in that area.

Religion and religious services are two places where we are easily seduced into being content with our self-centered needs being met. God and Christianity are not about getting rid of sins and adopting religious practices, but making room for life and life more abundantly. This is why Jesus said, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me." He doesn't specify denying only sins, but our selves: our individuality, our particularity. Numb life doesn't = abundant life. Christ teaches us how to savor in all and through all.