Posted in Spoken Word, Uncategorized

salt & light

Recently I was invited to write a spoken word for a church, in response to the “Beatitudes” from Matthew chapter 5. These are the words I wrote, spoken…

To mouths untasting and eyes that may seem blind:
Here we pause to find – living Words of Salt and Light to help us do more than understand
Living in a land, bland and shadowed
We hear the call to Kingdom Living
Giving that which we could never create, as fate finds itself defeated
By the One who interceded – Christ speaks still today
Through those standing in the fray, living in the Spirit empowered Way
He has revealed
Both those who have been healed, and those desperate still for healing
We find Kingdom revealing in these – more than simply platitudes
We call them the beatitudes
Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who’ve come near it but never quite arrived
Or thrived the way this world pretends.
Their desire transcends the offers of this realm, yearning for Jesus on the Throne
His Kingdom is their own.
Blessed are those who moan, and mourn,
Suffering – born of living against the norm, and weathering the storms too fierce to be calmed
Theirs is the balm of Gilead, with Jeremiah we seek
As we continue to hear Jesus speak
We hear him whisper – “Blessed are the meek.”
Those who quiet their own voice enough to hear, when Jesus himself is near,
It becomes clear the noises of this world are often simply distracting,
Acting is if they could offer new birth, but theirs is not the earth,
it is passed down from Father to child – to those He reconciled.
Blessed are those with a Divinely wild
hunger and thirst – Those for whom a burst
of spiritual enthusiasm could never pass
They will not only amass what is sought and could never be bought by religion,
but be filled overflowing by His provision.
Blessed are those who show mercy and compassion
Beyond the trends and fashion – to sacrificial loving, extra mile and going aboving
For they will receive the same – in the Name of Jesus
The one who frees us to be Blessed as those pure in heart,
Those who would depart and turn from old ways, offering their days as a sacrifice of praise
To break through this world’s facade – for they will see the face of God.
Blessed are those who not only cause violence to cease, or slow its’ increase,
But actively seek to create new peace
For they will not only hear applause begin – they will be called His kin
Children of the most high, those responding to the cry of oppression
Those who question the injustice of a system so broken
Not just a token representation, but as a citizen of a nation known as New Creation
But know the world will not always embrace, any member of the human race
that presents a case
For repentance.
Still – blessed are those who struggle for what is right, for yours is the light of the Kingdom.
As you bring them all I’ve inspired, you may still find some wired
to view my invitation to reconcile as something vile or offending
Rejoice – for I’ll never stop sending
my love for them, Just as I have for you.
So many have come before, as I continue to restore my grand redemption
There is no exemption.
Only places and moments in need
Oppressed who continue to bleed
Hungry mouths to feed
Systems built on greed
Wheat overgrown with weed

But through You – I intercede.

Posted in Different Scriptures

an experiment in prayer.

Take a deep breath for a moment, and prepare yourself to read the next few paragraphs slowly. As far as you are able, silence the noises and distractions in your environment. Acknowledge the noises you cannot silence, and set them aside mentally for now. Be sure you’re sitting comfortably in your chair.

Relax your body as far as you are able to, while still being able to read these words. Take another deep breath, but slower this time. Notice the breath entering your lungs, and become aware of the way God has created your brain to respond to increased levels of oxygen in your bloodstream from such a deep breath. It helps you to relax. Slow, deep breathing helps offer you a time and space where you step out of the routine for this moment. You step out of the pace of what needs to be accomplished, and what is depending on you, and allow yourself simply to “be” here and now.

I want you to imagine a leaf, which is easy to do right now because it is Autumn. Imagine all the colors you’ve seen recently, or look out the window for a moment to see what colors are visible there. Remember the warmth of summer, when all was green. Then the trees begin to change slowly, so that some of them are deep brown even now. Maybe you have seen, or can see even now – bright oranges, yellows, deep reds, and all hues and shades in between. Imagine what the trees will look like in the middle of winter – bare, branches blowing in the cold wind. They will be seemingly lifeless, as the flow of life within has slowed in order to survive until the higher temperatures return.

I want you to take another deep breath, and all yourself to examine your response to the question: What is the flow of spiritual life within you these days? Slow down for a moment. You are the only one who can guide yourself forward at a pace that offers this moment to God.

Maybe you feel vibrant and green.

You have experienced the shining of the sun, and the warmth of relationship both with God and others that have contributed to feeling like life is flowing into all the areas of who you are.

But possibly, there are parts of you…and possibly even the whole, that has begun to slow down internally.

The harsh conditions you have experienced in the world have made you feel cold. The flow of life seems to have slowed down. Some of it seems natural, and you can see the beauty in the changes of color as you experience the ebbs and flows of life, experiencing the natural seasons of living in a broken world. But it’s also possible the flow seems to have stopped to the point where it’s hard to find the beauty even in the leaves that remain, because they appear to be dried and falling already.

It happens so slowly, you may not even notice until this moment – taking time to examine the life and Spirit within you.

Even as you assess and allow yourself to be vulnerable to….yourself, the false statements begin to surface. Accusations to make you feel guilty or a sense of shame. “You haven’t done enough.” “You didn’t have such life within you to begin with.” “Such an experience isn’t possible, or is only for others.”

These are lies from the accuser. They have no place here. Imagine unplugging that speaker, or crumpling up the paper such words are written on, and tossing them in the garbage.

Instead, hear these words: (continue to read slowly – your tendency here will be to scan quickly through these words…but read them slowly, as if directly from God for you in this moment, with His intent to bring refreshment & healing to your soul)

“Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Rev. 3:20) “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28) “I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing…If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.  As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:5, 7-11)

Know that metaphors are limited, and you are not a tree. Smile at how silly that sounds, and yet how important it is in this moment. Because it means you do not have to wait until a better external season for life to return. You do not have to wait until conditions are less harsh, to invite the life of the Holy Spirit that is available to you right now, to flow within you – bearing fruit that offers healing.

Not by any special effort, although it may make you want to respond in particular ways. But it begins simply by allowing yourself to be Loved by a God who has reconciled you to Himself already, and forgiven everything that could have separated you previously.

Spend a moment being thankful for such Love.

Come back as often as needed, and especially when you forget such a need exists.

Amen.

Posted in Different Books, Uncategorized

The Soul of Desire

Recently I was able to read an advance copy of the new book by Curt Thompson, M.D. “The Soul of Desire: Discovering the Neuroscience of Longing, Beauty, & Community“. Having read and enjoyed Thompson’s previous books, I was excited to read his most recent contribution. As a Christian we believe there are unseen realms beyond the physical world that we are most familiar with. But we also do not seek a “spiritual realm” connection that is separate from the embodied existence we (and Jesus) share. Instead, we seek a greater understanding of how God has created us and woven our existence together as physical/spiritual beings. Because of this, we can gain much from modern studies of neuroscience as they relate to our relationships.

Thompson has already written much on the neurology of interpersonal relationships, attunement, integration, and secure attachments. In his previous books, he has explored (among other things) how telling our stories can be redemptive/healing/formative, how “being known” by each other and by God is something our souls are hungry for, and how unhealthy shame can keep us from one another and from God.

In this most recent book, he brings some of this same knowledge back in fresh ways, while also giving practical insight into how healing comes to the dis-integrated relationships and situations we often find ourselves in. Dr. Thompson does a great job of being honest about our brokenness (both as society/culture, and as individuals), and yet highlighting how God’s desire is to bring beauty and New Creation; not just after we’ve been healed, but as part of the healing and redemptive process.

Thompson highlights how much of the relational pain/isolation we currently experience is connected to the unmet core “Desires” we see reflected in infants/children, and our common responses to those continued desires being met in unhealthy ways as we grow. I’m over-simplifying, but he emphasizes there are 4 primary desires we all have: to be seen, to be soothed, to be safe, and to be secure. He explores how the insights of IPNB (Interpersonal Neurobiology) offer us fresh understanding not only as we seek greater relational intimacy between one another, but also as we seek to draw closer to a God who invites us to know Him even as we are known and loved by Him. He returns over and over again to Psalm 27 (especially verse 4) in confessing what we’ve been created to truly seek.

Thompson spends a lot of time in this book, highlighting specific experiences of healing and redemption that have happened in the context of what he calls “Confessional Communities”. He talks also about four foundational questions we are asked by God – not for information, but toward transformation. As we read his accounts, we hear whispers similar to those of John Wesley’s heart as he developed Methods of Classes and Bands, inviting people to experience the vulnerability of confession and forgiveness in the context of secure & Divinely loving relationships. He does not offer a cookie cutter “program” in response to all of the research he presents here, but he does present inspiring truth and invites his readers to imagine (along with/in the presence of a curious God) what might happen if we pursued these things together in healthy/integrating ways.

This is not an easy book to simply say “read this with a group”. It may be best individually, or with close friend/”Band” at first. There are awkward and vulnerable moments throughout the book that may make small groups or book clubs uneasy. But I definitely recommend the book for mature/discerning audiences, and believe the truths it points toward can offer new paths for healing and wholeness in our relationships and in our communities – in ways that proclaim the gospel message our world definitely needs to see and hear.