Saturday, March 31, 2007

An Evening with Dog The Bounty Hunter

I recently found out that Dog the Bounty Hunter is coming to Edmonton. I'd love to hear him in person, unfortunately it looks like it's sold out. I do have a connection to NAIT so there is still a possibility.

Dog is the kind of Christ follower that would fit at CoHo with us all: a little raw but fully committed. He's had a prodigal experience and now plies his trade in a tough environment. He's seen his ups and downs on the wheel of fortune for sure.

I sent him an email inviting him to the International Justice Mission breakfast on April 14. He likely doesn't have the opportunity to attend because of travel, but I wonder if anyone else from the local Christian community wanted to meet him.

I love how the NAIT Student Association word the promotion: A&E’s hit show; Dog The Bounty Hunter is a documentary-style program, depicting the criminal conquests and the emotional roller coaster ride of the life with bounty hunter, Duane ‘Dog’ Chapman. Dog tries to reach into the souls of those he captures to show them that if he turned his life around, so can they. Dog deals with a tumultuous home raising 12 kids while working & living with his spitfire woman, Beth. And, Dog and his posse of bounty hunters, deal with the everyday stress of capturing fugitives and meeting the Court’s deadlines.

With the capture of over 6,000 fugitives, the star of Dog The Bounty Hunter, Duane ‘Dog’ Chapman, is undeniably the world’s greatest bounty hunter. His exterior is: rugged and handsome, weathered and tanned, leather and metal. He is muscular, intense, and stoic in his blond, shoulder-length Mohawk—with a single braid interwoven with feathers (a tribute to his Indian heritage). But don’t let the exterior tell you the whole story. The interior of this prophet’s soul, with his own brand of magnetic charisma, is what makes the show such a huge success. Dog is Yin & Yang personified: a warrior/poet; an ex-con/Born-Again Christian; a Superhero/Daddy; a modern-day savior with old-fashioned values; a real-life Billy The Kid without a gun “I’m not against guns, I’m against bullets.”

Once an outlaw, now a lawman; Dog preaches honesty, love, respect, and humility. He is the poster child of rehabilitation and the king of comebacks.

Friday, March 30, 2007

IJM @ CoHo on April 14

Around the world injustice abounds. Torture, property grabbing, slavery, sex trafficking and other forms of abuse and oppression affect millions of human beings on a daily basis. The statistics are staggering, the reports are horrifying, but we are not powerless to do something about it. The ancient writer Isaiah commands us to “Seek justice, help the oppressed, defend the cause of orphans, fight for the rights of widows.”

International Justice Mission was established to stand in the gap for victims when they are left without an advocate. Come hear Jamie McIntosh tell how IJM is providing relief for victims, holding perpetrators accountable, effecting structural change, and providing aftercare to victims. Find out what you can do to make a difference.

International Justice Mission Canada is a human rights agency that rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation, slavery, and oppression.

Community of Hope
3935 – 114 Street, Edmonton, Alberta
April 14, 9:00 am
Complimentary continental breakfast provided
or 780-437-9580
An opportunity will be provided to contribute financially to the work of IJM Canada.

We will also go see the movie Amazing Grace as a group on Friday evening April 13, and follow that up with a cafe/discussion for those interested.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Micah 7:19
You don't nurse your anger and don't stay angry long, for mercy is your specialty. That's what you love most. And compassion is on its way to us. You'll stamp out our wrongdoing. You'll sink our sins to the bottom of the ocean.
Thank you Jesus!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Disturb us, Lord, when We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love. Sir Francis Drake

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Must be spring break...

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Way of Jesus: Knowing That You Are A Sinner

Isaiah 42:3
A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

“There are saints in my religion. That’s just people that know they are sinners”. G. K. Chesterton

The distinction isn’t between sinners and non-sinners, but between those sinners that won’t acknowledge it and those sinners who in the depth of their soul know it to be true.

Some of you are in the process of tuning out. You don’t believe that there is something wrong in the world, hey?

An extract from the diary of Lieutenant Colonel Mervin Willett Gonin who was among the first British soldiers to liberate Bergen-Belsen in 1945:

I can give no adequate description of the Horror Camp in which my men and myself were to spend the next month of our lives. It was just a barren wilderness, as bare as a chicken run. Corpses lay everywhere, some in huge piles, sometimes they lay singly or in pairs where they had fallen. It took a little time to get used to seeing men, women and children collapse as you walked by them . . . One knew that five hundred a day were dying and that five hundred a day were going on dying for weeks before anything we could do would have the slightest effect. It was, however, not easy to watch a child choking to death from diphtheria when you knew a tracheotomy and nursing would save it. One saw women drowning in their own vomit because they were too weak to turn over, men eating worms as they clutched a half loaf of bread purely because they had to eat worms to live and now could scarcely tell the difference. Piles of corpses, naked and obscene, with a woman too weak to stand propping herself against them as she cooked the food we had given her over an open fire; men and women crouching down just anywhere in the open relieving themselves . . . [a] dysentery tank in which the remains of a child floated.

Terrorism. Imperialism. Racism. It happens overseas. It happens in our backyards. It happens in my heart. And in your heart, too.

"Although my memory is failing, I remember two things quite clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great saviour." John Newton

Saints know that they are sinners. Surprisingly, God can use us to a greater extent when we fully accept this truth into all areas of our lives.

“I probably started to become an atheist in college. I saw a lot of people going to church, and all that. Then I’d see the same people making racist jokes, getting drunk and belligerent— but getting it all forgiven with a few Hail Mary’s. So I questioned the validity of their faith and, in turn, the validity of what I thought of as my faith.” Matt Casper

If we’re not careful, we can easily fall into a ‘happy-clappy spirituality’. That’s where we only focus on God’s love and goodness, forgetting that we are too self-focused to live that way on our own. The Bible does speak of sin, God’s judgment, and His anger. Can we look at any book, or even two pages where we do not face this truth in the Bible?

We need the wrath of God. It’s not an emotional outburst. God’s anger in the Bible is really His passion to set things right.

Mark 3:1-6
Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Stand up in front of everyone."

Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they remained silent.

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

Mark 9
A man out of the crowd answered, "Teacher, I brought my mute son, made speechless by a demon, to you. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, grinds his teeth, and goes stiff as a board. I told your disciples, hoping they could deliver him, but they couldn't."

Jesus said, "What a generation! No sense of God! How many times do I have to go over these things? How much longer do I have to put up with this? Bring the boy here." They brought him. When the demon saw Jesus, it threw the boy into a seizure, causing him to writhe on the ground and foam at the mouth.

The glory of God is a human being fully alive. Irenaeus

There is no contradiction between the love of God and the wrath of God. Saints are more aware of their own sin not less.

Ever notice at this time of year that you can wash your windshield, or at least get it good enough to drive for a while. Then you drive a couple of blocks, some particles settle on it, and then the sun comes out and you can’t see a thing!

At night there can be good visibility, even with stuff on the glass, but watch out in the daylight! You can’t see a thing- it’s totally opaque. Some early mornings I’d be driving for Timmy’s without scraping my window. I could see until I passed under a streetlamp then I wash functionally blind. I had visions of a tree jumping out in front of me!

John of the Cross said that the soul is like a pane of glass: when the light of God shines on it the imperfections are more, not less apparent.

Driving away form the light I’m okay. When I turn to the centre, where Jesus wants to make His home, I become more aware of my sin, not less.

Isaiah 6
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

Luke 5
Once when he was standing on the shore of Lake Gennesaret, the crowd was pushing in on him to better hear the Word of God. He noticed two boats tied up. The fishermen had just left them and were out scrubbing their nets. He climbed into the boat that was Simon's and asked him to put out a little from the shore. Sitting there, using the boat for a pulpit, he taught the crowd.

When he finished teaching, he said to Simon, "Push out into deep water and let your nets out for a catch."

Simon said, "Master, we've been fishing hard all night and haven't caught even a minnow. But if you say so, I'll let out the nets." It was no sooner said than done—a huge haul of fish, straining the nets past capacity. They waved to their partners in the other boat to come help them. They filled both boats, nearly swamping them with the catch.

Simon Peter, when he saw it, fell to his knees before Jesus. "Master, leave. I'm a sinner and can't handle this holiness. Leave me to myself." When they pulled in that catch of fish, awe overwhelmed Simon and everyone with him. It was the same with James and John, Zebedee's sons, coworkers with Simon.

Jesus said to Simon, "There is nothing to fear. From now on you'll be fishing for men and women." They pulled their boats up on the beach, left them, nets and all, and followed him.

Sixteen hundred years ago was written one of the great stories of coming to follow the Jesus Way. It was written by Augustine, and called Confessions. The word has a double meaning in Latin: it can be to confess sins; but it also means to profess praise, as in the confessions of the church.

When we confess our sins, it can become praise to God!

In Acts 9, we read of Saul who is utterly convinced that he’s doing God’s work. He is blinded by Gods light and asks this question, “"Who are you, Lord?" "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,"

Path one of being a saint is finding the centre. Don’t be afraid of this path, knowing that you are a sinner!

Flannery O’Connor writes a story set in the Deep South in the 1950’s. It’s called, Revelation.

Mrs. Turpin, a proud and overbearing woman, enters a doctor's waiting room with her husband. While they wait, Mrs. Turpin converses amiably with the rooms occupants while mentally judging them to be "pleasant", "common", or "white- trashy”. Her internal monologue is judging everyone. She even says at one point, “I’m really grateful that God has given me such a great disposition.” Her self-righteous comments seem to disturb "the ugly girl," a college student who keeps glaring at Mrs. Turpin in a menacing way. Enraged by one of Mrs. Turpin's pronouncements, the girl attacks Mrs. Turpin and insults her, calling her a "wart hog from hell" and throwing a book at her that knocks her down. Mrs. Turpin returns home, but her formerly cheerful demeanor is altered and she begins to feel angry, bitter, and confused about her experience. She is unable to understand how she can be both a saved, choice individual and a "wart hog from hell". Finally, Mrs. Turpin has a vision in which she sees "a vast horde of souls… rumbling toward heaven" in which white trash and lunatics come before dignified people whose "virtues were being burned away", giving Mrs. Turpin cause to reconsider her own opinion of herself and her virtues.

There was an instant when she was certain that she was to be in an earthquake. All at once her vision narrowed and she saw everything as if it were happening in a small room far away, or as if she were looking at it through the wrong end of the telescope…The girl fell with a thud and Mrs. Turpin’s vision suddenly reversed itself and she saw everything large instead of small.

The girls name in the corner, the college student? Why Mary Grace of course. Grace doesn’t tickle. The book she threw? Human Development.

Mrs. Turpin, a native southerner, a terrapin, a turtle, hard exterior, and then something called Grace breaks the shell.

U2 says, “Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.”
She takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain
It could be her name
It's a name for a girl
It's also a thought that changed the world
And when she walks on the street
You can hear the strings
Grace finds goodness in everything
Grace, she's got the walk
Not on a ramp or on chalk
She's got the time to talk
She travels outside of karma
She travels outside of karma
When she goes to work
You can hear her strings
Grace finds beauty in everything
Grace, she carries a world on her hips
No champagne flute for her lips
No twirls or skips between her fingertips
She carries a pearl in perfect condition
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark
No longer stings
Because grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things
Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

A quarter of a century after he had the encounter with Jesus on the road to Tarsus, Paul writes to the followers of the Jesus way in Rome:

Romans 7:15-25
I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!

He’s writing in the middle of the tension. He’s a mature follower of the Jesus Way. He’s a saint and a sinner too.

Fellow sinners, we all know the tension of Romans 7. I do, and I’m sure you do, too.

It’s not a matter of mind! Sin is a state of inner tension, of wanting our way. Who will deliver me from this, wretched man that I am?

We sang at Christmas, “Oh come oh come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel.”

The prison is inside of us. If the problem is our will, the will is not the solution! Thanks be to God.

Part of what it means to be a saint is to know that you’re in this situation- this predicament. When we seek solutions strictly through own will, through our sin, we won’t find out way out.

Light needs to shine on us. Mary Grace needs to show up.

In Dante’s Divine Comedy,
“Midway along the journey of our life
I woke to find myself in a dark wood,
For I had wandered off from the straight path.

How hard it is to tell what it was like,
This wood of wilderness, savage and stubborn
(The thought of it brings back all my old fears),

A bitter place! Death could scarce be bitterer.
But if I would show the good that came of it
I must talk about things other than the good.”

Dante was a leader in his city, Florence. He was confident; perhaps some might have even called him cocky. At mid-life we often awaken to realize all is not well, all is not right with ourselves.

Dante begins to know that he is a sinner and cries out to God. In the story the roman poet Virgil is sent to accompany Dante on this journey.

Essentially Virgil says “I’ve got good news and bad news for you. I can lead you out, but we have to go to hell first.”

Dante is being compelled to see what sin is really like. In his story it is an inverted cone, spiraling lower and lower and smaller and smaller. Augustine said sin was "curvatus in se", being curved in on yourself, captive to selfish thinking.

The topography of the journey in The Divine Comedy mirrors the topography of the soul. Seeing the effects of sin on himself he faints! Virgil picks him up and says, “Look, see!”

As they go lower it gets colder. The flames of hell are only at the surface in his version. At the bottom people are frozen in place.

When we are “In Christ”, we are linked to each other to the creator of the Universe. In Dante’s hell we are cold, isolated, and frozen from contact. Satan is stuck in the ice.

An angel with giant bat wings, unable to fly. We’re meant for flight- for the fullness of life that Jesus spoke of. We’re meant to fly out of our self, our will, and our dreams, to soar where God would take us. To help usher His kingdom in, not our own.

As Satan flaps his wings, he serves to make it colder. This is the meteorology of hell. Satan has three faces- a weird sort of parody of God. Trapped in ourselves, we think that we’re the centre of the universe. In the three mouths of Satan he chews Cassius, Brutus and Judas, chewing on the betrayers but never swallowing them. Sin is shown to lock us in place, keeping us stuck in our own pathetic kingdom. Through it we make the world colder, not warmer. We constantly chew on past mistakes, making us even bitterer. And ultimately we‘re sad.

The opposite of this is the reality of joy. G. K. Chesterton said angels can fly because they take themselves so lightly. Dante’s Satan is an angel who takes himself too seriously.

“There is not a sin which I cannot commit. If I thought there were I couldn’t love the person who committed it.”

So what then is sin? Julian of Norwich said sin was evil because it ultimately prevents us from seeing ourselves the way God sees us.

Come forward to become part of something, what God is doing in the world through Jesus Christ - the reconciliation of all men and women with himself, each other and all of creation, which BTW inextricably includes my own personal reconciliation with God. David Fitch

In communion we are invited to enter a relationship with Christ that changes everything.

"When our depravity meets His Divinity, it is a beautiful collision.” Here is our king.

1 Timothy 1:15
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

What Is Really Holding You Back?

To overcome life stress we must either change our circumstances or our perceptions. You can change some circumstances but many you cannot.
Philippians 4:8
Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!
It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. James 3:3-6
Ecclesiastes 5:3
Overwork makes for restless sleep. Overtalk shows you up as a fool.
Matthew 11:28
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."
If God is good and inhabits the throne of the universe and everything that comes into your life is can you be anything less than optimistic?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I Love This...

Keeping promises is never easy...God always comes through.

Titus 1
I, Paul, am God's slave and Christ's agent for promoting the faith among God's chosen people, getting out the accurate word on God and how to respond rightly to it. My aim is to raise hopes by pointing the way to life without end. This is the life God promised long ago—and he doesn't break promises! And then when the time was ripe, he went public with his truth. I've been entrusted to proclaim this Message by order of our Savior, God himself. Dear Titus, legitimate son in the faith: Receive everything God our Father and Jesus our Savior give you!

Kind of makes you wonder about Noah and his best practices, too. He would have made a great head hunter in todays business world!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Saints are sinners

"Pray passionately to God, the Lord, for the greatest and most necessary of gifts: to see one's own sins and to weep over them. Whoever has this gift has everything." Igumen Nikon

Isaiah 6
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

"Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Big Mall

The world of churches used to be like a big mall, where there are many different kinds of stores. You choose one store–ONE–and you go there for everything you need. You are LOYAL to that store. You BELIEVE in that store and what it’s all about; in the way it does things. You persuade others that your store is the one and only store real shoppers patronize. You buy name brand merchandise at every opportunity. It’s your store. Yes, there is a mall, but you only need one store.
Remember when your dad said he was a “Chevy” man? And you mom said we buy all our groceries at the Blue Bell market? Remember when you decided your school, this college, that team were all “yours?” And you were ready to argue the point of your loyalty? Churches are like that. You choose, and you stay with your choice.
Here’s something I’ve noticed: It felt good to know what you were. It felt good to have a team, a brand, a store, a school and a church. You knew who you were and what you were all about. Things were simpler. Lots of decisions already made; lots of questions already answered.
I know many people who still live in this world. They are shopkeepers in the mall. They are employees and customers of their chosen store. Presbyterianism. Roman Catholicism. Southern Baptist fundamentalism. TBN Pentecostalism.
When you come in to shop, they are very happy. But when you say you are leaving and going to another store, or several other stores, they are unhappy. They want to persuade, convince and bribe. They may be nice or angry. They may insist that it’s wrong to go to another store, that you’re making a terrible mistake and wasting your money and time. They can make you feel very guilty and uncomfortable, like you are doing something wrong.
They believe, you see, that Jesus came to found their particular chain of stores. Jesus was the founder of their store. It’s right there in the Bible as they read it, and they can prove it to you if you’ll just stop and listen to their favorite teacher. There are people I know who have bought into this in one store, and another and then another. They are on their third or fourth final choice of a store to patronize. Why shouldn’t you do the same? Don’t you want to be right?And then there are those of us who, because God has ruined our shopping trip by showing us the good and the not so good in all these stores, are trying to shop in the whole mall and get back home. When God ruined everything for us by showing us the value and the limitations of all the stores, he didn’t give us the gift of feeling great about never really having a “home” of our own.
Do you know that feeling? It’s grown and grown over our lives. We’ve been Baptist and we are Baptist, but we can’t go all the way with Baptists. We’ve been Calvinists and Presbyterian, but we can’t go all the way. We love the Anglican and Episcopal churches, with their wonderful worship and liturgy. We find ourselves in Catholic churches a couple of times a year, and we’re deeply drawn by what we see, hear and experience, but we can’t go all the way and buy into it. Not with any of them.The more these various groups contend that Jesus is the exclusive sponsor of their stores, the less I want to do more than visit them. I love the whole mall. I feel I belong, in some way, to all of these traditions, but not wholly to any one of them. Michael Spencer

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Psalm 23
The Lord is my Pace setter - I shall not rush
He makes me stop for quiet intervals,
He provides me with images of stillness which
Restore my serenity,
He leads me in ways of efficiency through
Calmness of mind,
And his guidance is peace.

Even though I have a great many things to
Accomplish each day, I will not fret,
For his presence is here,
His timelessness, His all importance, will keep
Me in balance
He prepares refreshment and renewal in the
Midst of my activity,
By anointing my mind with His oils of tranquility,
My cup of joyous energy overflows.

Truly harmony and effectiveness
Shall be the fruits of my hours,
For I shall walk in the Pace of my Lord
And dwell in His House forever.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Why not be a saint?

My eight-year-old daughter just finished a kicking book report on St. Francis. I thought that very special becasue I did a major paper on him back in the day at cemetary, oops I mean seminary.

I also feel a special affinity with Francis becasue of his ministry. He regulary treated nature with respect as all things, especially the animals, had been made by God. He even spoke to the birds and got a response. Why just last week someone at church said my teaching was for the birds! What a compliment!

Francis could have written the Wild at Heart material with John Eldredge, too. He had grown up wealthy; trained to be a warrior and a soldier but instead had a vision from God that changed his life forever.

Francis was a great inspiration because when he heard from God, he really obeyed. If you've never really looked at his life, I'd encourage you to read up on him. You can't help but be inspired to follow Christ, unless of course you're not prepared for radical life change.

Luke 14:25-30
One day when large groups of people were walking along with him, Jesus turned and told them, "Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one's own self!—can't be my disciple. Anyone who won't shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can't be my disciple.

"Is there anyone here who, planning to build a new house, doesn't first sit down and figure the cost so you'll know if you can complete it? If you only get the foundation laid and then run out of money, you're going to look pretty foolish. Everyone passing by will poke fun at you: 'He started something he couldn't finish.'

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Way of Jesus: Finding the Centre

Have you ever said about someone, "That's a very centred person." The kind of person where “ministry flows out of being”?

Love as a commodity versus love as a magnet

We sometimes take a Darwinian approach with love—if we are against somebody's ideas, we starve them out. If we disagree with somebody's political ideas, or sexual identity, we just don't "pay" them. We refuse to "condone the behavior" by offering any love.

This approach has created a Christian culture that is completely unaware what the greater culture thinks of us. We don't interact with people who don't validate our ideas. There is nothing revolutionary here. This mindset is hardly a breath of fresh air to a world that uses the exact same kinds of techniques.

The opposite is biblical love, which loves even enemies, loves unconditionally, and loves liberally. Loving selectively is worldly; giving it freely is miraculous.

I think of love like a magnet. When people see it given in the name of God, they're drawn to it. If I withhold love, then people believe I have met a God that makes me a hateful and vicious person. And they're repelled.

I have two responsibilities to this world, the first is to love; the second is to speak the truth. I can tell somebody such and such a behavior is sin, and still love them. Why not? Why not bring them food, why not hug them, why not have them over to the house? Won't this only help them understand the truth?
Don Miller

Only a person centred in Christ can really live that.

I'm convinced that it takes only one thing to put Christ in the centre, and that is willingness- a special kind of willingness—a willingness grounded in the longing that tugs at your heart—not a legalistic striving: "I OUGHT to put Christ first.. I SHOULD put Christ first... I MUST commit to putting Jesus in the centre." I'm speaking of a longing so deep, an openness so wide, so basic to the soul's survival, that it feels like the thirsty deer spoken of in Psalm 42, who longs for flowing streams.

A quiet centre cannot be panicked. The Quaker theologian Thomas Kelly called it making a “mental habit of internal orientation.” It’s cultivating a quiet space that cannot be disturbed.

If you want to identify me,
ask me not where I live,
or what I like to eat, or
how I comb my hair;
but ask me what I am living for,
in detail, and ask me
what I think is keeping me
from living fully for
the thing I want to live for. Thomas Merton

Last week we looked at the Notre Dame Rose window as a symbol of the centre. The medievals loved the circle- it was the perfect shape for God- no beginning and no end.

There is another Rose window in the Amiens Cathedral that depicts the Wheel of Fortune, long before Pat Sajack and Vanna White made is so famous.

At the top is a king. His face shows a confident and powerful expression. He is daring anyone – even life itself – to challenge his power and dominion. There is a single Latin word written beneath his countenance, a word that sums up his sentiment with clarity and precision – REGNO – I RULE.

At the 3 o’clock position is a second figure. His features are similar to the mighty king. Yet he is a monarch who has lost his crown, and is tumbling in free fall from the side of the wheel. He is desperate and frightened, stunned and clearly out of control. His sudden reversal of fortune has left him looking dazed and disheveled. There is a second Latin inscription by his face, a word carefully chosen to capture his “has been” status. The word is REGNAVI – I have ruled.

At the bottom of the wheel a third figure dressed in rags. He is no longer kingly, his face being poor and pathetic, a living lamentation, and there are three words inscribed by this figure that capture the pathos of this hapless individual - Sum Sine Regno – “I have no power.”

At the 9 o'clock hour we find a cunning young prince, stealthy and ambitious, eagerly clawing his way to the top of the wheel. His gaze is fixed on the mighty king as he climbs to the top of the wheel. The Latin inscription beneath this figure captures the sentiments of this eager creature. Regnabo – “I will rule.”

That’s life. Didn’t Frank Sinatra sing, “You’re riding high in April and shot down in May.”

“One day you’re the toast of the town and the next day you are toast?” Alan Simpson

At the top of the wheel you live in anxiety- when will it all end? When does my 15 minutes of fame flame out?

You can’t control it. On the wheel there are many up’s and down’s. But at the centre is the figure of Jesus Christ. He doesn’t change. Jesus seems to be saying, “Don’t live your life on the rim of the wheel; live your life in the centre; in Him”.

Even as your life changes you have detachment from any point on the rim when you live from the centre. A saint is one who lives in the centre; who is detached from any point on the wheel- how ever good or bad.

Back in 1990 André Agassi was a 20-year-old tennis phenom that operated with the slogan, “Image is everything”. That’s life on the rim baby. After a short time he flamed out and so many people lamented the waste of such talent. No one believed him when he said he wanted to get back in shape. He was lazy and overfed. But he trimmed down, worked hard, returned to form. He said that you have to be light on your feet. The detached person is light on their feet. Even lighter without hair!

John Lennon seemed to understand the Wheel of Fortune. Back in 1965 at the height of the popularity of the Beatles he was miserable. What was it like for him? Awful. He was first exposed to drugs around that time. In 1965 he wrote, “Help”.

Help, I need somebody
Help, not just anybody
Help, you know I need someone, help

When I was younger, so much younger than today
I never needed anybody's help in any way
But now these days are gone, I'm not so self-assured
Now I find I've changed my mind and opened up the doors

Help me if you can, I'm feeling down
And I do appreciate you being 'round
Help me get my feet back on the ground
Won't you please, please help me

He intended it as a dirge, a lament, but their producer said it needed to be an upbeat Beatles song, so we got the version we’re familiar with.

In the mid ‘70’s the Beatles broke up and Lennon faced his dark night of the soul. In the early ‘80’s Lennon was back with a new album called “Double Fantasy”. One song in particular is noteworthy: Watching the Wheels-

People say I'm crazy doing what I'm doing,
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin,
When I say that I'm o.k. they look at me kind of strange,
Surely your not happy now you no longer play the game,

People say I'm lazy dreaming my life away,
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me,
When I tell that I'm doing Fine watching shadows on the wall,
Don't you miss the big time boy you're no longer on the ball?

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go,

People asking questions lost in confusion,
Well I tell them there's no problem,
Only solutions,
Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I've lost my mind,
I tell them there's no hurry...I'm just sitting here doing time,

I'm just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go.

He was shot to death a short time later. John Lennon understood the the Wheel of Fortune.

Get off the merry-go-round. Listen to the words of the most-centred person of all time, Jesus Christ:

Luke 6:20-22
"Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.

Blessed are you who are poor…what a weird God we have here. The word translated literally means, happy, even lucky! Lucky are you if you are not attached to material things; otherwise you live in anxiety.

We are wired for God, to need Him, to desire Him. If you hook that desire up to anything else in this world, you are set up for addictions. It’ll satisfy you for a while, but then the high wears off. So you search for more; you strive for more approval whatever it takes. You get another buzz. More, more, more…now you’re on the wheel of fortune.

How lucky, how blessed you are not to get caught up on the rim of the wheel.

How many people in the world are there who say, “all my dreams have come true but I’m miserable.” Lots. Look at Hollywood; or professional sports. I have the big house, big bucks, but I’m miserable! Did I just quote Chris Pronger's wife?

How lucky you are if you weep.
How lucky you are if you are not addicted to good feelings.

Have any control issues? Don’t be afraid of weeping.

How blessed are you when people hate you. What is that? Lucky you are if you are not addicted to the approval of others.

Who do you need to approve of you? Who are you trying to please? Pleasing that voice from the past becomes an addictive drug, but the buzz will wear off.

How lucky are you…to be light on your feet when you live in the centre.

Another way to summarize this teaching in the beatitudes is to love what Jesus loved on the cross and to despise what Jesus despised on the cross.

Get off the wheel. Pick up a cross.

At the climactic moment of His life Jesus is stripped naked on the cross. He was nailed to the cross. He can’t grasp at anything material. Adam and Eve grasped at the knowledge of good and evil, wanting to be like God; so Jesus undoes their grasping on the cross.

He’s naked and abandoned. Any good feelings on the cross? People will hate you and despise you. Despise what Jesus despised.

What Jesus despised on the cross were all of those worldly goods—pleasure, wealth, and esteem of others, material things—that can distract us from attaching ourselves to the ultimate good.

And this gave him the consummate freedom to love the one good worth loving above all others: the will of the Father. He loved the will of His Father. Jesus Christ on the cross becomes the centre of the real life. He shows us how to do the one thing that matters: the will of the Father.

1 Corinthians 2:1-5
And I, when I came to you, brothers and sisters, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

Find your centre in Jesus Christ.

Jesus be the centre
Be my source be my light Jesus
Jesus be the center
Be my song Jesus
Be the fire in my heart
Be the wind in my sails
Be the reason that I live
Jesus Jesus
Jesus be my vision
Be my help
Be my guide Jesus

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Prayer of Abandonment

My Father,
I abandon myself to you.
Make me what you will.
Whatever you make of me,
I thank you.
I'm ready for everything
I accept everything.
Provided that your will be done in me,
In all your creatures,
I desire nothing else, Lord.
I put my soul in your hands,
I give it to you, Lord,
With all the love in my heart,
Because I love you,
And because it is for me a need of love
To give myself,
To put myself in your hands unreservedly,
With infinite trust.
For you are my Father! Charles de Foucauld

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Why Not Be A Saint?

"The great secret of life is how to survive struggle without succumbing to it, how to bear struggle without being defeated by it, how to come out of great struggle better than when we found ourselves in the midst of it." Joan Chittister, Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope

"This is the book I didn't want to write. It is certainly the book I did not intend to write. My original plan was that I would write a book about hope. It is, after all, a particularly unpredictable and often difficult period in human existence. It seemed to me that hope is the central virtue in life, certainly needed and so easy to explain. But it didn't work. Everywhere I looked, hope existed — but only as some kind of green shoot in the mist of struggle. It was a theological concept, not a spiritual practice. Hope, I began to realize, was not a state of life. It was at best a gift of life. . . . The more I struggled with the idea of hope, the more I began to realize that it is almost impossible to write a real book about hope without looking at the nature of struggle. Where in pain does hope lie? And how do we cultivate it? And what does it mean to the development of the spiritual life and the attainment of emotional wholeness?"

"Struggle is the gift of new life in disguise... There is beauty in the dark valleys if life. It is called hope."

"This an anatomy of struggle and an account of the way hope grows in us, despite our moments of darkness, regardless of our regular bouts of depression. It is an invitation to look again at the struggles of life in order that we might remember how to recognize new life in our souls the next time our hearts turn again to clay."

Friday, March 16, 2007

Nurture the tree called church

“One of my favorite children’s stories is The Cherry Tree, written by Daisaku Ikeda. This story, set in post-war Japan, tells of two children who one day stumble upon an old man who is attempting to nurse back to life a barren, aged and war-damaged cherry tree. At first the children are puzzled by the man’s devotion to a tree that already appears to be dead. When they inquire about this, the old man explains: ‘It’s true she hasn’t blossomed since before the war. But one day, with a little kindness and patience, she may again. Not in my lifetime perhaps, but one day! I’m sure of it.’

The children, inspired by the old man’s devotion and hope, agree to join him in his efforts to nurse the tree back to life. They work hard, but much of their time is spent waiting and hoping.

And then one day a single pink petal appears, followed in due time by a rapturous display of fruit-producing blossoms.” Philip Kenneson

The church may appear dead at times, but all those in Hebrews 11 didn't give up. Neither should we.

By an act of faith, Rahab, the Jericho harlot, welcomed the spies and escaped the destruction that came on those who refused to trust God.

I could go on and on, but I've run out of time. There are so many more— Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets....Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions, fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies. Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection. Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons. We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless—the world didn't deserve them!—making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.

Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Prophets of a Future Not Our Own

It helps, now and then, to step back
and take the long view.
The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of
the magnificent enterprise that is God's work.
Nothing we do is complete,
which is another way of saying
that the kingdom always lies beyond us.

No statement says all that could be said.
No prayer fully expresses our faith.
No confession brings perfection.
No pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the church's mission.
No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about:

We plant seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everythingand there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something,
and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for God's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders,
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador

Why not be a saint?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

May God bless you with discomfort,
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
So that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger,
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
So that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless you with tears,
To shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
So that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their pain to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness,
To believe that you can make a difference in this world,
So that you can do what others claim cannot be done.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Gospel of Jesus Christ

Mark 1:14-15
Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: "Time's up! God's kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message."

Monday, March 12, 2007

The Jesus Way: Why Not Be A Saint?

Christ at the Centre

Thomas Merton, is his book Seven Story Mountain recounts a discussion he had with Robert Lax:

“What do you want to be, anyway?”

“I don’t know; I guess what I want is to be a good Christian.”

“What do you mean, you want to be a good Christian?”

The explanation I gave was lame enough, and expressed my confusion, and betrayed how little I had really thought about it at all.

Lax did not accept it. “What you should say” – he told me – “what you should say it that you want to be a saint.”

A saint! The thought struck me as a little weird. I said: “How do you expect me to become a saint?”

“By wanting to,” said Lax, simply

I can’t be a saint,” I said, “I can’t be a saint.” And my mind darkened with a confusion of realities and unrealities: the knowledge of my own sins, and the false humility which makes men say that they cannot do the things that they must do, cannot reach the level that they must reach: the cowardice that says: “I am satisfied to save my soul, to keep out of mortal sin,” but which means, by those words: “I do not want to give up my sins and my attachments.”

But Lax said: “No. All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you will consent to let Him do it? All you have to do is desire it.”

A long time ago, St. Thomas Aquinas had said the same thing – and it is something that is obvious to everybody who ever understood the Gospels. After Lax was gone, I thought about it, and it became obvious to me.

The next day I told Mark Van Doren: “Lax is going around saying that all a man needs to be a saint is to want to be one.”

“Of course,” said Mark.

"There is only one real sadness in life, that of not being a saint." Leon Bloy

All the other sadness of life- the failure, lost relationships, disappointments, it really all comes down to not finding God’s will for your life and to do it.

What must I do to be a saint? “Will it, desire it and want it.”

What is a saint? Simply put, it’s a friend of God. It’s to be God’s friend. To make your relationship with Jesus Christ the central focus of your life. That’s what it means to be a saint.

John 15:9-17
"As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.

Growing up, Eugene Petersen, translator of the Message Bible, often worked in the butcher shop where his dad was employed in rural Montana. On hot summer days, you might say the experience was rather ripe. Blood, the smell, the flies, I can picture it, having seen the butcher shop up close in retail grocery, and farm slaughtering. It isn’t pretty.

Petersen likened that disgusting environment to that of the ancient Temple, and so began to form in him the idea that much of the spiritual life is made up of the mundane & the profane. And he moved that thought to the idea of being a saint. Why is it such a negative term? Or perhaps we have a positive view of it yet it’s utterly unattainable for us. That’s not what the Bible talks about.

Philippians 1
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi,

Ephesians 1
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints in Ephesus,

Colossians 1
To the holy and faithful.

Romans 1:7
To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.

2 Corinthians 1
To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia:

Jude 1
Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance.

There’s a saint! One who is loved by the Father, kept by Jesus Christ, and whose life is growing in mercy, peace and love.

Why not be a saint?

That’s not a rhetorical question to you or to me. In many ways this continues our previous series, as a saint is one who is ‘holy and faithful’. The Jesus way...the path of following God…is about becoming a friend of God, a saint. It has three movements,

Finding the centre: where we are drawn into the life of God.
Knowing you are a sinner (it’s a Bible word!): where we begin to get healed, find healing, embark on the journey of healing.
And discovering that your life is not about you: you are sent by God.

Becoming a saint begins with what’s at our centre.

How many of you know the origin of this building? It began as a Catholic Church. A post Vatican II design, where the sanctorum, the altar was in the middle here. The centre.

Many people love the architecture and symbolism of this building. Features that are sadly lacking in many buildings.

Some of the greatest symbolism in architecture is found in the medieval cathedrals.

Look at the Notre Dame cathedral and Rose window.

It’s a dramatic wheel of light and color. Mary and Jesus are at the centre. All around are the other representations of spirituality and life. The wheel depicts a well-ordered soul: where Jesus Christ is at the centre; where all of life will revolve around that truth and reality. Your mind, will, passions, body, sexuality, private life, public life- everything.

Matthew 6:33
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

If Jesus Christ is the clear centre- the rest of your life will fall into harmony around it.

Isaiah 2:2-3
In the last days the mountain of the LORD's temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths." The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

All peoples, all tribes will go up, but not see each other; rather our eyes will be on God, looking to Him for guidance, leadership and love. It will be so secure that we will be able to beat swords into ploughs the Bible says!

That’s what happens when Christ is at the centre. When something other than Jesus Christ is at the centre, such as money, power, sex, pleasures, your soul will be out of harmony; discordant and repulsive.

It is said that beauty occurs at the intersection of three things: wholeness, harmony and radiance.

Soren Kierkegaard said, “The saint is one whose life is about one thing”. Wholeness occurs when our life is about one thing, that being everything belonging and relating to Jesus Christ as the centre. Is He the Lord, the undisputed CEO of your life, the GPS that guides everything you do and everywhere you go? Or is He just one of many programs running on your own operating system?

In a harmonious system all is interdependent, mutually supported. But if our mind goes one way and our body the other way, we become divided.

Matthew 12:25
"Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.

It’s hard to imagine the beauty and radiance of the rose window. Imagine though entering this large cathedral for the first time, you have no electricity, only candlelight. The explosion of color and light would have been breathtaking.

Matthew 17: the transfiguration. In 1969 Malcolm Muggeridge felt compelled to visit Mother Teresa in Calcutta. In a dark room he wanted to film her work. The cameramen said the light is too pure- it’ll never work. Yet Muggeridge said to do it anyways. Back in England where they developed the film there is an eerie glow that illuminates just enough to see.

In Mother Teresa's smile, words and deeds, Jesus again walked the streets of the world as the Good Samaritan. Pope John Paul II

Mark 1:21-28
They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!"
"Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him." News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

Jesus speaks with authority, clarity and purpose. The demon is singular, but speaks in the plural.

Later in Mark 5, the Gerasene demoniac,
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!" For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!"
Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?"
"My name is Legion," he replied, "for we are many."

“We are ‘Legion’ as there are hundreds of us,” says the demon. The demons divide us. They are the picture of a soul without a clear centre, without integrity, a lost anchor.

Isaiah 44:8
Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

The old story of Marth and Mary in Luke 10 has often been read as an account of the play between the active and the contemplative life, Jesus signaling his preference for the latter over the former. But I don't think that gets to the heart of it. It is rather more a narrative concerning the spiritual problem of the one and the many.

Martha complains that her sister is not helping her with the many and time-consuming tasks of hospitality and tells Jesus to do something about it. The Lord responds, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part which will not be taken away from her."

Martha's problem is not that she is busy or that she is engaging in the "active" life; her problem is that she is uncentred. Her mind is obviously divided, drifting from this concern to that, from one anxiety to another; there are many things that preoccupy her. What Mary has chosen is not so much the contemplative life, but the focused life. The implication appears that were Mary to help with the many household tasks, she would not be "worried and distracted" by them, since she could relate them to her centre, and that, were Martha to sit at the feet of Jesus, she would still squirm with impatience and anxiety, since her spirit is divided. As is so often the case in the spiritual life, the issue is not what they're doing, but how they're doing it. Indeed, the surest sign that something is off in a persons soul is that you even tell God what to do!

Mark 4:35-41
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

Life kicks up storms- failure, lost relationships, physical pain, fear, the threat of death.

Augustine said that the Christ who is in you and me, the place of peace in our soul, that the disciples have lost their connection to that centre. That’s what faith is. Being linked to the creator of the Universe, the all-powerful God who loves us.

Is Christ asleep in your boat? That’s the Christ you’ve allowed to go to sleep. Perhaps becoming consumed with career or children, wealth, recreation, pleasure, love, romance, sex, sports, your pain, whatever it may be. You’ve allowed your link to the centre to be lost. You’re scared; you’re angry.

Wake Him up! The storm will calm.

Theresa of Avila wrote of Jesus as the castle of safety. A place of power and rest. She said that most of us have lost the way- we’ve lost the key to access it. We can get in if we remember that the true fortress is Jesus Christ.

Her spiritual director was John of the Cross. He jigged her metaphor and called it the interior wine cellar- recalling the woman at the well in John 4: “whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

In the midst of our depressions, anxieties we have access to this intoxicating place.

Bill Tomes has been in Time Magazine and is a Catholic priest who has worked in Chicago's worst housing project. Now in his late 60’s he has devoted his life to unconditionally loving the youths in Chicago's projects whose communities are devastated by violence, drugs and poverty. When gang violence occurs, Brother Bill rushes to the scene and stands between the warring gangs until the shooting ceases. He has been shot past over 50 times but never hit and attended over 160 funerals of youth he simply calls "my children".

He does this by the sheer presence of his person. He lives from his centre in Jesus Christ.

In Winnipeg last November, a dear saint died. His name was Harry Lehotsky. For nearly a quarter of a century he worked for and advocated on behalf of the poor in that city. A pastor from my previous church denomination, he made a difference serving with the downtrodden because he knew his centre in Jesus Christ. Harry was a commentator in the Winnipeg Free Press, received the Order of Canada posthumously on February 7. His video 30-minute video prepared for his funeral is very powerful. He was able to approach terminal cancer from a centre of peace.

When you’ve found the centre, you’ve found a place of safety, no matter what this world throws at you. Why not ask God to become your centre right now.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Why Not Be A Saint?

Back on November 11, a real saint went home to be with God. Harry Lehotsky was a husband, father, pastor and advocate for the poor who succumbed to pancreatic cancer. He was a regular columnist with the Winnipeg Sun. Click on the link below to watch a 30-minute video he did to show at his funeral. You'll see a real-life saint in action along with the definition of a New Testament church.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

"Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings." Anais Nin

1 Peter 4:8
Most of all, love each other as if your life depended on it. Love makes up for practically anything.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Christ followers...

Romans 12:9-19
Love from the center of who you are; don't fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don't burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don't quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they're happy; share tears when they're down. Get along with each other; don't be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don't be the great somebody.

Don't hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you've got it in you, get along with everybody. Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Share your faith?

No matter what your age...

1 Peter 3:15
But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

It's not just overseas, it's in our backyard...

Last night my oldest son, who is 10, saw a homeless person asking for money outside of the library. He came back home and told me that he had gone back to the van and cried. I give him some song and dance about poverty; I could have been the person in the video. Lord, have mercy.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Sunday with Bono

A comment I regularly hear from people who have seen the Bill Hybels interview with Bono is, "I can't believe how well he hears and understands the words of Jesus. Why can't the rest of us Christians be like that?"

I believe that question comes from the Holy Spirit stirring deep in our soul for an agenda dear to God's heart.

If you'd like an mp3 of the interview drop me an email or leave a comment with your email and I'll hook you up.

Below is link to a talk Bono gave at the President's Prayer Breakfast in 2006. Terry Leblanc was a guest at this years breakfast. All these radicals get invited to powerful places! Yeah God.

BONO at the Presidents Prayer Breakfast 2006

PDF version

Monday, March 05, 2007

Jeremiah 6:16
Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.

Friday, March 02, 2007

There’s cathedrals and the alleyways in our music. I think the alleyway is usually on the way to the cathedral, where you can hear your own footsteps and you’re slightly nervous and looking over your shoulder and wondering if there’s somebody following you. And then you get there and you realize there was somebody following you: it’s God. Bono

“I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” explained exactly how my faith had turned from a self-centered certainty (my prayer: Jesus, help me and bless me) to a world-centered questioning (my prayer: Jesus, why do so many people have to suffer this way?). Christian Scharen
This Sunday we'll watch Bill Hybels interview Bono from last year's Leadership Summit. When a prophet is in your midst be prepared to be uncomfortable.
Anyone who sets himself up as "religious" by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world. James 1:27

Thursday, March 01, 2007

"The great tragedy of our age is the fact that there are so many godless Christians -- Christians whose religion is a matter of pure conformism and expediency. Their 'faith' is little more than a permanent evasion of reality -- a compromise with life. In order to avoid admitting the uncomfortable truth that they no longer have any real need for God or any vital faith in him, they conform to the outward conduct of others like themselves.

And these 'believers' cling together, offering one another an apparent justification for lives that are essentially the same as the lives of their materialistic neighbors whose horizons are purely those of the world and its transient values." Thomas Merton