Tag Archives: Spiritual Renovation

The Life of St. Francis (What Propelled Him?)

Today (October 4) is the day we celebrate the life of St. Francis of Assisi. He’s a guy I want to learn more about – beyond the elementary stories I’ve picked up. I want to learn and experience what propelled him into some of the radical, yet ordinary decisions he made. I want to embody some of the same passion he carried within himself as God moved him along – that kind of passion that allowed him to express freedom as he followed and knew Jesus as savior and lord.

For starters on learning, I read this this morning:

A clip about Francis from www.commonprayer.net:

Francis of Assisi (1182 – 1286)

Francis was born to a merchant family in the Italian city of Assisi. As a young man, he was attracted to adventure and moved by romantic tales of knights. When he himself became a knight, Francis met a leper while riding through the countryside. Overwhelmed by a divine impulse, Francis dismounted his horse, shared his coat with the leper, and kissed the man’s diseased face. Captivated by the experience, Francis began to re-imagine his life in light of the gospel, renouncing his selfish desires and his father’s wealth. A beggar for Christ’s sake, Francis inspired thousands to walk away from worldly success and join his movement of friars who sought to renew the church in their day.

Next step for learning, this soon-coming IVP book: The Cost of Community: Jesus, St. Francis and Life in the Kingdom. I look forward to its release!

Peace, friends.

 

<><
Ben.

How Do We Let God’s Love Grow In Us? [Invitations from God | Book Note]

“Learning to listen and respond to God’s invitations is the path to real freedom.” (Invitations from God, p. 11)

Welcome to August.

Many of us are starting to feel the uptick in opportunities and obligations with family, school, or work. We’re facing the seasonal decisions of what to be involved with or not. Invitations come flying at us! The hard part is knowing which ones to entertain and how many of them to accept. We’ve felt the seasons of burnout and overcommitment and do not want to return.

Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s book Invitations from God is a fantastic reading tour in our life’s landscape that is bombarded by advertisements. The questions she writes, the invitations she pinpoints, and the simple things she reveals are very helpful in sparking a prayer dialog with God – a time to search together what God desires in life. As we’re faced with many invitations or feeling stuck in a place where we don’t feel invited, Calhoun’s words bring encouragement and life – and a good number of healthy challenges. She helps us discern big questions in life: What does God desire? How do I walk with Jesus and live? How do I learn to die to self and in so experience a new kind of life?

As I read Invitations from God, I saw Calhoun drawing my attention to this idea: Life at its fullest is life renovated to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves. Each chapter in the book stems off this and provides exercises, invitations, and questions to help us pay attention to God. This all happens right in the middle of ordinary life. (That’s what I feel is a strength of Calhoun’s writing – she takes the spiritual life and helps make it ordinary again.) Each one of these invitations is a very down to earth, ordinary invitation. They’re a return to human-ness.

Calhoun’s repeated word, “Invitation,” is a word that needs to become more and more natural and recurring in our language of life with God. People need and want to hear again and again that God desires life for us and he wants to renovate our entire selves to experience life with Himself – a life that begins to naturally, and in an unforced way, pour out love. This is an absolute invitation! Come – experience life as God intended. Come – be made well. Come, follow Jesus. Know God’s love, learn how to love, and live a life of free dependence on the Source of Life.

The invitation that was the most striking to me was the invitation to remember (chapter 10). The invitation is: “To become aware of how my story fits into God’s redemption story and how it is meant to set others free.” It’s striking not because it’s hard to do or completely revelatory, but because that’s just where I sense God at work over the last few months in my life.

Remembering took root when I was recently talking with my Grandparents in their house. We live a thousand+ miles apart and don’t talk as much as we could. My two boys played next to my wife Jenny as Grandma and Grandpa streamed story after story, memory upon memory. They talked non stop for two hours. Grandpa kept saying, “Passing on your story is very important – it’s really all you’ve to pass on.” I’d never heard him talk like that before. He wanted me to take it all in, to know him and his details, to perhaps see how part of who I am is also part of who he was and is. This dialog set me on an inner expedition, weaving Grandpa and Grandma’s story together, wondering how I’ve been indirectly affected by it, and how my story will affect my boys and their children. So, it was neat to read Calhoun’s chapter on remembering – it took me back to re-thinking my family’s story and my story and seeing how woven God has been in it all – no matter how hidden or seemingly silent.

I wonder if a failure to remember and explore our Story is what’s causing so much demise in our Christian communities today – why there’s a flood of younger generations no longer keeping company with the Church and perhaps even with Jesus. I think we’ve in a large part forgotten our story with God and forgotten the invitations He’s extended to us throughout history. As Calhoun wrote, “When we forget our sacred story, amnesia about who God is set in,” and, “…how we remember determines so much of who we are and who we become,” (p.172). Also, “…everything finds its place in the redemption story,” (p.176).

I’m thankful for the dialog Calhoun sparked for me and look forward to sharing it with others. I recommend this book to you and to all explorers in the faith who want to be immersed in the language of invitation and who are looking for both an embrace and challenge in their journey with Jesus.

For those interested, Calhoun’s invitations are:

  • The invitation to participate in your own healing. (To cooperate with the Trinity in my growth, healing and emotional maturity. [John 5:6] p.24)
  • The invitation to follow. (To conform my life to Jesus’ path of descent, service, and sacrifice for the sake of others. [Philippians 2:5-7] p.38)
  • The invitation to practice the presence of people. (To see people as Jesus does – as the most important things in the world. [Genesis 33:10; Luke 7:44] p.56)
  • The invitation to rest. (To set aside the compulsion to “do, do, do” and live into God’s creational rhythms that nourish and restore the body, soul, and relationships. [Hebrews 4:1] p.71)
  • The invitation to weep. (To open myself to the naturalness of tears as Jesus did, learning to feel and weep over the things that move God’s heart. [John 11:35; Genesis 6:6] p.86)
  • The invitation to admit I might be wrong. (To humbly accept that my knowing is incomplete and that I don’t have everything right so I can be open to hearing more from Jesus. [Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 16:2] p.102)
  • The invitation to forgive. (To live into Jesus Christ’s forgiveness so I can let go of the hate, hurt, and brokenness of the past and live into freedom. [Luke 7:47; Colossians 3:13] p.122)
  • The invitation to wait. (To let go of my need to control people and circumstances so I can trust that God is at hand and be present in the moment as it unfolds. [Psalm 62:5; Psalm 37:7] p.136)
  • The invitation to pray. (To live entirely with and in God – relating to him at all times and in all things. [1 Thessalonians 5:17] p.153)
  • The invitation to remember. (To become aware of how my story fits into God’s redemption story and how it is meant to set others free. [Deuteronomy 15:15; Psalm 63:6; Luke 22:19] p.169)
  • The invitation to the most excellent way. (To embrace the ego-sanding way of Jesus, who loves his neighbor as himself. [John 13:35; 1 Corinthians 12:31] p.183)

How Some Read the Bible | Lectio Divina

Codex Bobbiensis – The last page of the “Gospe...
Image via Wikipedia
What’s that? What’s lectio divina?

Lectio Divina is a way of reading that engages the heart, mind, soul, and strength in the reading process and not just the mind alone. It’s intentionally listening as much as you’re reading. It’s as much silence as there are words, in a way. You know, kind of like talking with a friend.

It starts with slowing down – like you might when you sit down with a friend for a chat. Neither one of you is anxious about your coming-chat. You’re just chill.

Slow down… In the process of slowing down, if you’re not the slow-down type, ask God to help you out with that, to slow you down. He’s right there with you, isn’t He? I’m sure he’ll lend a hand sometimes.

Read. (“Lectio” in Latin). Read the Word. Read Scripture. Our ancient friends encourage not reading too many verses at a time. This way you can really listen to something, really hear the Story, the Voice of God and not be overwhelmed with a hundred thoughts, questions, etc. (though that might happen anyway). On average, I’ve seen readings last about three or four paragraphs or as much as a chapter.

Think. (“Meditatio” in Latin). Think a bit. Let your mind wander in the story. Really – let your imagination get involved. Imagine what the scene and smells are like in the Story. What do you see? What to the faces of the people in the story look like? Why in the world do you think that’s the case?

Next: Prayer. (“Oratio” in Latin). Talk with God. What did you hear and see in the Scriptures you read? Why did those things in the Story catch your attention. I bet God would like to hear your thoughts on that.

Live. (“Contemplatio” in Latin). Simple living, really. The “contemplative” life is a life lived in simple awareness, keeping company with God in the very ordinary rhythms of life. Let the Story, the Bible, affect your life. What, throughout your day, will God guide you towards or away from? What does the section of verses you just read say about that? What’s God guiding you toward?

Why Lectio Divina?

Lectio Divina is a relational way of reading the Bible. It’s about the relationship God is working within us and for us in Jesus. It’s all about knowing Someone and not just knowing about Someone. That takes dialog, back and forth-ness. And while that might not be audible, God works within his Word to build faith within us – not a faith just in someone or on something, but a faith-lifestyle with someone. Faith, at its core, is about walking with God, not just for God or about God — with God. With Jesus.

Invitations from God | Book Opening

Invitations from God came in the mail yesterday. I’m excited to hear what Calhoun has to say on the topic of spiritual development and the invitations God extends.

As I opened the cover, I began thinking: I really like the word invitation. It captures so much about what God is up to and how our relationship with him really works at the core. The call to discipleship as, at its best, an invitation. It’s an invitation to live within the rhythms of grace, to live the Jesus Way.

An opposite is a raw obedience without the concept of invitation, an obedience to Jesus just because he is Lord (and perhaps not thinking so much on the savior part).  Saying to one another: You must do this because Jesus is Lord diverges from the character of Jesus who did not force his Way on anyone; Jesus was simply the door to life.

While we do obey Jesus because he is Lord, it’s the character of Jesus we see in the Gospels that guides the way we obey and follow. We imitate, as we’re spiritually vivified, and the core and heart of our obedience, the why of our response, truly underscores the content, intent, or honest substance of our obedience. At the heart of it, true obedience is love, admiration, and time together on the journey – wherever that may lead. Obedience is a lens seeing life and opportunities to experience and express life. Obedience, as Henri Nouwen taught me in one of his books, is about really hearing and really coming to intimately know. “And this is eternal life, that you know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom [he has] sent” (John 17:3).

An invitation to freedom is what Jesus came to bring. He’s a new Moses calling out to a slave people in an enslaving empire, saying, “Cross this sea with me.” We’ve heard the declaration: You are free, your sins are forgiven. We also see that this Jesus-Way freedom actualizes through the journey and we’re freed through being propelled by the Spirit of God toward and into obedience.

Here’s what we hear: Whoever will lose their life will find it, whoever keeps their life shall lose it. Also: Come to me all who are weary and need rest. [And many, many others.] All the imperatives that surround these take us right back to invitation. The heart of it: Come and live. They also take us to absolute dependence. As sinners and people who are probably more confused than truly knowledgeable with God, we’re left to depend on God’s Spirit to bring us through the doors of invitation.

Back to the book.

I’m excited to be immersed in the word invitation and to read Scripture alongside the book. The word “Invitation” for me has opened a door of freedom and life, of permission and exploration. Perhaps we all need to hear more invitations and be reminded of the invitations God continually extends to us.

<><

What is “Success?” (A Father’s Day Question)

~day 17: the Kingdom of God is among you~
Image by theroamincatholic via Flickr

Success. Really, what is it?

Some demonize the word, telling us that we’re missing the point when you think of success to much. The point being: live life to the fullest and let success fade from your vocabulary. Letting the thoughts and imaginations of success fade will open you up to more fully live in the present moment, they say.

That idea is usually said in light of success being some kind of notoriety and acclaim and the pursuit of such. It’s even related to the precious moment the life of wanting a relationship – that when you finally quit wanting it, well, there it happens.

Now, these things said, I think there’s another frontier to be explored when we think about (or maybe don’t think about) success. I think it needs a redefinition – by re-, I mean looking back to what the word is supposed to mean. To do this, I want to share something I recently read that expressed a new but old take on success.

Paraphrasing: Success, in social activist and author John Perkins, says, is all about succession. It’s all about passing something down to others or to the next generation. For Mr. Perkins, that something being passed was a vision for the Kingdom of God unfolding in front of their eyes and visioning how to participate in those spiritual rhythms.

For us, especially us fathers, on Halmark’s dedication to us? I think it’s a good time for all of us to re-examine and constantly examine Success. Is success to us all about getting big, looking for our break, or finally arriving (all of which might just have a little time and place, I’m not sure)? Is success for our children all about them doing the same: landing a high paying job, getting a college degree from a big school, or expressing themselves in ways that will bring notoriety to themselves and the family?

If those are our preoccupations, then we’re not talking about success, we’re talking about illusion: how we want to see ourselves and be seen by others. (Sure, integrity is important, but why and what kind?) Success is this: What about our lives are we passing down to our children (and this will take a lot of time, energy and perseverance)? What about our religious convictions and spiritual rhythms are we guiding our children to explore? How are they learning to see and walk in the Kingdom of God? How are we being led by God’s Spirit to guide our children toward Jesus Way life and create real success via succession?

A reading of Deuteronomy 4 might be an appropriate thought closer.

Book Note | Soulful Spirituality: Becoming Fully Alive and Deeply Human by David G. Benner

I rate Soulful Spirituality an “only ok” rating. That’s not to say that I didn’t learn something. My big take away was the comparison of “soul” to “spirit” in Benner’s work. Soul is the grounding of who we are; Spirit is the expression or energy or passion we express. I thought that was a neat way to look at things – that we need health in both our grounding, in who we are, as well as in the way we express life.

Another part I appreciated about Benner’s work was the concept and reminder that we are constantly becoming. We’re not static and this present moment is the moment of life and becoming alive. Very psychologically true.

I rate it the way I have because I believe a true and healthy spirituality is driven by God’s Spirit as it courses through us. To me, Benner’s work seemed more about an individual realizing him/herself toward awareness and seemed, by the writing, to be possible without the Spirit or much needed involvement of God at all – as if God were out somewhere in space just waiting for us to realize ourselves toward him as our end-goal destination.

While I appreciate the mention of spiritual vibrancy and find much of Benner’s writing to be very psychologically helpful and good, I’m left wondering at the end of the book what, in the author’s words, is a true and living spirituality and what does Jesus have to do with it? How does life come to us from God and course through us? Or, is it like Benner writes, that our lives are about a coming awake to an already present, yet strangely unknowable (my take on Benner’s book) God?

Book Note | Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words by Brian D. McLaren

Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple WordsNaked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words by Brian D. McLaren

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoy McLaren’s vulnerability within his writing – I get the sense that I’m listening to someone who’s still wrestling over things, like I am, and not someone who’s professing to have it all worked out.

My take away from this book was the permission McLaren’s stages brought to my own life and walk with God. The seasons were: Simplicity: The Season of Spiritual Awakening; Complexity: The Season of Spiritual Strengthening; Perplexity: The Season of Spiritual Survival; and Harmony: The Season of Spiritual Deepening. McLaren took twelve words to flesh out these seasons and attached the words to practices of prayer and meditation which I felt reverted back to an introspective examination of the self and gave alleviating permission to whichever stage you happen to be in and to just be there.

Those twelve words are: Here, Thanks, O; Sorry, Help, Please; When, No, Why; and Behold, Yes, [...].

The stages McLaren wrote about were the reason I picked up the book. They’re reminiscent of a few other things I’ve read by ancient church fathers and more recently by Adele Calhoon in her book, The Spiritual Discipline Handbook, where in an appendix she wrote about seasons of Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. McLaren’s autumn was Calhoon’s winter, but other than that, things were quite similar in terms of seasons.

I believe this book is good for introspective people but wonder if those who are less introspective would really get much out of it. I wonder if something more like Richard Foster’s The Celebration of Discipline really fleshes out an understanding of spiritual attentiveness to the ways and person of God through intentional practices. Yet, Foster’s book lacks an overarching sense of spiritual season, which I think is very helpful. It attaches us to what St. John of the Cross wrote 500 years ago about the Dark Night of the Soul and such things and how they’re all for the shaping our our whole selves toward absolute grace filled dependence on God.

Now, my fault for the book is that I feel McLaren’s writing on the spiritual life, like many other books these days, seems to open a possibility of us working our spiritual life on our own with or without the Spirit of God propelling or filling us with spiritual life. Jesus and the Jesus Way themselves even seem optional by McLaren’s writing – which I doubt would be the case if I sat down and talked with him. …I wonder.

While I appreciate the mention of spiritual seasons and the words McLaren uses to flesh out those seasons, I’m left wondering at the end of the book what, in the author’s words, is a true and living spirituality and what does Jesus have to do with it?

View all my reviews