In every spiritual discipline, rules arise to shape and focus us.
I once heard a Zen master say, "In every Zen temple you'll find good rule keepers. Their spiritual pride runs quiet and deep. They practice well."
Listen, Don't be good rule keepers. Keep your nose on the prize. Run into the arms of Jesus. If the law is perfect, and only Jesus could fulfill it; don't you think He could straighten you out a lot better than a list of rules? God changes us from the inside out.
These rules give us form and structure. They shape, but can never change our lives.
So you've got to be a little rebellious. You've got to have a little chutzpah, without being arrogant, to move through the spiritual disciplines and meet their goal. Otherwise you'll get caught up in the list of rules like a dream catcher, and never get out. And that goes for every spiritual discipline, not matter how 'perfect' it seems.
'Out goal is progress not perfection.' Leave the perfection up to God. He's done it for you. Let Him work out what he's put in you. Our spiritual disciplines are there to shorten the learning curve.
This is the way a vision or a revelation works too.
In a real sense, even meditation is beginning with the end in mind. Here's why: Simply put, through meditation we move into the finished work of Christ. We experience that place of rest and peace Hebrews talks about. That rest in God.
Guess what? That's the whole purpose of meditation for the Believer. Workaholics, Legal Eagles and Gatekeepers hate this. But I've got to tell you.
From this position, this place of rest, this vision of God, we work our way back, or better yet, we work out what we've experienced.
We work out what God has worked in us. It's restful, it's transformational, but the world wants to kill it. Why? Because it reveals Jesus and his finished work on the cross.
So what works for you? Does singing bring you into the presence of God? or worship? or reading the Scripture? or a walk in the woods? Raising your kids? Teaching? Serving other people? What do you do, that brings transcendence up into your life? Those mystical moments. Whatever it is, that's your work of grace.
That is what you were put on this earth to do. That is how love expresses itself best through you.
You are meant for so much more than you can possibly imagine.
Photo Credit: Frank Abbott Photography
There's a stillness at the beach. A quietness you can hear in the echo of a seagull's cry, or the slowly breaking waves, lapping the shore. The waves whisper eternity. You can smell it. You can taste it in the salt air.
It's there, as you gaze out over the waters...it holds you, it draws you. When suddenly, the sun on the water casts a thousand diamonds at your feet.
There's a calm in every sunrise, every sunset...a dazzling display of creation, and rest.
So, soak in the moment. It's like the pause at the end of every breath. A space where time touches eternity. And in that moment, we are renewed.
And if you get very still and you listen very clearly, you'll hear it. In that space, you'll hear a faint echo down the halls of time, along with a call, a yearning for home.
Photo Credit: Pensacola LIFE
Are you out of step with the rest of the world?
I am, and I've got to say, it's awesome!
I'm not sure when it finally dawned on me. I'm pretty hard headed after all. Maybe it was while I was being the super Charismatic? Or maybe while I was being a good Baptist, a good Presbyterian, a good Messianic Believer, a good Plymouth Brethren, a good Episcopalian, a good Anglican?
You get the picture don't you? It dawned on me a million times, but I kept trying to fit, again and again.
It didn't work. I didn't fit in. And it wasn't anything I was doing wrong.
The weird thing is, every 'church group' has their own code language. There's a certain state you have to get into, and there's a certain way you've got to express it, that is, to fit in.
Yet, Seers, Prophets and Sages have never fit in.
Mystics are a sort of 'Spiritual Nerds.'
We're usually Seers, Prophets, Sages, or Healers. Some of us are worship leaders. Just listen to David Crowder.
We don't fit the norm, and probably never will, no matter how hard we might try. And here's the reason.
We march to the beat of a different drum.
We see and experience things most other people will never see or understand. And because of it, we're seriously out of step with the status quo.
Here's an example: If I would say to you, "Probably the most important thing you can do, is to walk in the Spirit."
You might see a list of things to do,
- Or a longer list of things not to do.
- Or you might think of practices, devotions, or prayers that would really help.
- Or you might think you need to become a Missionary, or a Preacher, or a Priest,
- maybe even a Monk or a Nun...to really get your spiritual mojo working.
- Hey, Bible College or Seminary would really be cool to have under your belt.
- A good fast might help too.
For the mystic, it simply means, I now walk in the Spirit. Mystics see things intuitively from the 'get go.' We consciously and intentionally seek out experience with God. And because Jesus' finished work allows us, we go in, and we're ready to move on with God.
Here's another clue, if this is for you: Most Believers will go to a great service. They're thrilled with the presence of God being poured out, and that's awesome. But for us mystics, getting alone with God is the thing. Our high point is before the meeting.
It's like this, Where do you get your energy from? What stokes you? Being around people? or being alone?
Individual gifting works in any Church structure, because 'your solace, is in solitude.' It's about a real love affair with God.
The mystic revels in contemplation and meditation. Why? Because they are the doorway practices, the thresholds we cross.
Do you realize that walking with God in the cool of the day is more than a beautiful image? It's real, and it's here and it's now.
Give a mystic a Scripture and he's gone. We plumb the depths of God. We'll dive into the awesome, incredible, inexpiable, mystery of God before you can blink an eye.
There is something else we have as mystics, something that no other generation has ever had. Did you ever wonder why the ancient mystical writings are so obscure and difficult? Today we have language and words to express our interior life with a clarity no other generation has ever had. Psychology, psychotherapy, and the brain sciences have given us interior language, and opened up whole new ways to express ourselves.
Everyone of us has the need to get alone with God and soak in his presence.
Take a moment today to get alone. Try being like a young fisherman who's sitting on a bank, with his pole in his hand. Alert, expectant, but resting with that pole, and watching the water. Hold that picture. Close your eyes, and seek God.
Come close to God and He will come close to you.
Photo Credit: Philocrites
I reached a point in Buddhism, somewhere in the 70's, where enlightenment and integration broke down. My life was a mess. And it just wasn't working.
An Enlightened Mess
I was in an enlightened state when it hit me. God wouldn't make it so complicated (speaking of integration). You'd have to be a superman to do it, and I couldn't.
God would make a way where the mentally handicaped, the broken, and the diseased could know Him intimately. He wouldn't put it off for a hundred million lifetimes of reincarnation. It doesn't work. God wouldn't abandon us to such a life. But who is He?
So, I began my search again, and Jesus was at the bottom of my list.
Now, I'm remembering this, as I look at the Church.
We make things so hard, so complicated. The problem with religious people is that we pile it on: The steps you've got to take,
the words you've got to say in the right order, fasting, praying, self-denial, living holy. If you're good enough, and if you try hard enough, then maybe, just maybe, you might just catch a glimpse of Him.
Jesus cried, "It is finished!" Guess what? It is finished! The work is done. Jesus did for us what we could never do, and we still can't. All the well meaning programs, services, disciplines, prayers, liturgies, and practices will never get us in. At best they make us better, but never perfect.
Spirituality is the easiest thing you will ever do in your life. It's acceptance.
Spirituality is states and stages. It's being, not doing. Spirituality is dwelling in the eternal, and for us as Believers, it's 'abiding in the vine.' It is dwelling in the presence of God. It is dwelling in Christ and Christ dwelling in us. Jesus makes it all possible. And the truth is, we have all things in Christ, concerning our spirituality, and nothing apart from Him. We are co-heirs with Christ.
I honestly think people make it all so complicated because they don't know. Good relationships are simple. Dysfunctional relationships are always complicated.
Jesus says it clearly, and simply: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." In Jesus we have full access to our Father.
The fact is, our actions flow out of our spirituality. Abide in the vine and bear much fruit...
Thank you for stopping by, and Welcome! I'll be changing things up a bit, including the format, so tell me what you like.
When I started back in '07, I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that I had to get some stuff out.
Maybe you to want to get out what's rattling around in that brain of yours. Maybe you want to have your say. You might see things nobody else is saying. Or maybe you want to say it better. Writing is a journey, every time you put words to the page.
Writers struggle out loud. We air out what's churning around inside of us. We set our words free, to see how they fly. Sometimes they fall apart and crash into the earth. But not always.
We spill out our deepest thoughts, especially if we can turn a good yarn.
We work through and formulate our thoughts, dreams and visions. It's never pretty, but it's real. "Our mess is our message." ~John Maxwell
We embrace living close to the edge, so we might help somebody else. Writing is like doing battle with words.
In fact, when it comes down to it, all writing is a spiritual practice. Most of us never even see it, but it's the place we all write from. Whether it's fiction or non-fiction, poems, songs, or hymns, we 'bleed all over the page.'
Your words are vessels that hold your spirit, your genius or your empty words. So choose them carefully, and make every word count. They're filled with you.
Let's begin together. Let's begin intentionally, to learn the art of writing as a spiritual practice.
Be forewarned, it's a bloody messy business. And there's no telling where it will take you. It's a dangerous thing to take a pen in hand. But with it, you have a real shot at changing the world.
So wield your heart and soul and strength and sinew. You've got a story to tell.
Again, Thank You for stopping by. My hope is that you will start writing as a spiritual practice even if you haven't started already. Keep coming back.
Photo Credit: The Humble Scribe Urban Fairytales
Break Free of The Trance
We're hardwired to scan. We're grabbing our information on the run. We gobble down our fast food, check our e-mail, see what's on hulu, check out You Tube, drive to work while texting, come home to even more of the same, and crash, exhausted, to bed. I dare you to stop. Download your self from the Wi-Fi.
First Thing: Print this post out. Now. Get a physical copy into your hands. There's several reasons for this. But just do it.
How To Read Meditatively
1. Clear Out The Noise: Get in your quiet spot. Don't have one? Make one. Get away from the distractions that will hijack your ability to focus. Now, take a few deep breaths, to clear your spirit. When you've worked this for a while, you immediately go to step 3. Life isn't a linear progression. It's a relational one.
2. Face Your Conflict: If you're feeling inner conflict, realize that conflict is always about change. Conflict means something that has been trampled, clogging up the springs of life in your heart. It's time to go against the false flow. It's time to clean out the wellsprings of life and get things running again. Especially if your inner flow is an adrenaline rush into a brick wall. Conflict can simply be unforgiveness, in which case, it's helpful to remember three things to say outloud, "I release you, I forgive you, I send you love." It takes practice.
For most of us, we have to slay our dragons daily, before God can do the impossible in our hearts. Paul put it simply, 'I die daily, that I might live to Christ.' Our real conflict is surrender.
3. All Words Are Vessels: Empty words slowly empty the life out of us. While on the other hand, when Jesus says, "The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life," that's what they are: brimming with spirit and life.
So, speak Jesus words to yourself. And read them, in the depths of your heart. 'Taste and see,' the spirit and the life. Let them engage and transform you...'from the inside out.'
There's a 'mutual dwelling' in meditative reading that's radically transformational.
Insight: There are 9 people tapping on their smart phones in a waiting room as I write this. You can learn to 'clear out the noise' anywhere and at any time with practice. Jesus lived life on the fly. Not in some quiet holy place. He was the holy place. You can be that too. The key: mutual dwelling. Now you're on the way.
Top Photo Credit: gwilmore
|Photo credit: Wikipedia|
I'm a Believer
In Jesus alone I have found salvation, purpose and abundant life.
Jesus tenderly calls us: "Come to me all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Jesus Is The Word of God
Scripture is my North Star by which I guide my life, lest I shipwreck on the shoals of my spiritual pride and arrogance.
Jesus fulfilled the whole Law and The Prophets, all 613 commandments. He said, "It is finished," righteousness completed, our debt paid. Jesus cut a new covenant with us. Jesus is our way out, or better yet, our way to live eternal life.
Jesus gives us one new commandment that totally eclipses the Law and the Prophets.
Where the Law is summed up in " You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind" and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Jesus upps the ante. He gives us, his disciples, one new commandment, "I'm giving you a new commandment. to love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are to love each other."
"This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love each other."
John opens it up: "If we love one another, God dwells in us, and his love is perfected in us."
I hold to the preeminence of God's Love: His grace, His mercy, His truth and His forgiveness being offered to us in the New Covenant bought by the blood of Jesus Christ for us.
Therefore, I view all Scripture in the light of God's new covenant which began at the resurrection of Jesus Christ, not in the light of the old covenant shinning on the new.
I believe in the mutual dwelling of God the Father, with God the Son, with God the Holy Spirit. I have experienced this mutual dwelling that is our birthright when we become sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ.
As To The Church
I believe we are designed by God, so that our life in Him works out best in our families and in communities of Believers. How else could we "love one another as I have loved you"?
But as a Believer, I refuse to continue the ancient wars of Christian division. There is only one Body of Christ, only one Bride of Christ. I am one with all those who name Jesus Christ as their Lord. They are my brothers and my sisters.
Therefore, I am Roman Catholic. I am Eastern Orthodox. I am Messianic. I am Anglican. I am Episcopalian. I am Methodist. I am Lutheran. I am Presbyterian. I am Mennonite. I am Baptist. I am Charismatic. I am Pentecostal. I am Holiness. I am Assembly. I am Denominational. I am Non Denominational.
In grace, I embrace all my brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, as I hold to the raw truth that our systems will progressively fail us, as our life in Christ grows.
God has promised to test all things by fire. Everything we have built in the flesh will burn. All our wood, hay and stubble will be consumed. And the Bride of Christ will arise out of the ashes, shinning in Glory, pure and spotless.
Every temporary thing will be swallowed up in the burning perfection of God's glory.
Everything will fall away into the larger purpose of our eternal life in Christ.
As we see through the veil dimly, we will see Him face to face, and cry, "Abba Father, You are Holy! Holy! Holy! Our Father, Our LORD God Almighty. Heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest."
So What Is A Disciple?Discipleship is a relationship not a program. Discipleship is life as a journey with our Lord Jesus, teaching, mentoring and preparing us for eternity. He molds and changes us, transforms and restores us. We are Christ Bearers in the world. We not only represent Him, we reflect and bring the fragrance of Jesus into the world. A disciple reproduces his master's life. We touch the sick, the diseased and the broken with Jesus. And we reveal the way out to the world. We proclaim and reveal the love and mercy of Jesus our Lord. We disciple the nations.
Let's look at breath.
How You Breathe Is Critical To Your Whole Life
As Westerners, we tend to breathe shallow and unconsciously. Heck, we never even consider how we're breathing.
Some of us know better. As a runner, I ran 10 miles a day for several years. And as any runner will tell you, breath management is critical to how well you do. If you breathe unconsciously, you can expect to pass out.
Think of the swimmer who doesn't manage or improve their breathing habits. They won't last long.
Your breath is critical to how well you live.
Why Breathing Is Spiritual
The Hebrew word for spirit is the same word for breath. Jesus breathed on his disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit."
Three deep breaths when you're tense, slowly releasing your breath on the exhale, is a universal way to calm down.
It's a fact, if you stop breathing, you're pronounced dead.
So our notion that there isn't anything to learn about breathing needs to be examined.
I'm a singer and I always struggle to develop my lungs to sing better. How about you?
Those morning walks are critical to our good health and well being.
Our problem is that we are adrenaline junkies and caffeine is the Christian drug of choice.
My dad, as a pastor, lived on caffeine and cigarettes, and died a premature death. And he was considered a spiritual giant.
How many pastors do you know, who down a Red Bull, or a cup of joe before speaking? It effects our spirit and our message. It pushes the adrenaline, and pushes other people in our sphere of authority and influence.
We're so addicted to caffeine and sleep deprivation, we've retrained ourselves and we've totally forgotten how it feels to breathe and to think normally.
Breathing As Spiritual Practice
So we have to retrain ourselves to breathe deeply, slowly, consciously, pausing at the end of each breath.
Regardless of what you think, the fact is: breathing and your spiritual life are inseparably tied together. At least in this life. Ever since God breathed 'the breath of life' into Adam. The evidence is all over the place, but frankly, we're unaware.
When I ask God for forgiveness, I consciously breathe out. I let all the junk out, and breathe in God's forgiveness. I breathe in his Spirit, his new life. That's a habit of prayer I formed many years ago. And quite frankly, it has sustained me through hard times more than anything else.
How do you think the breath prayer, or the cadence of the Black Preacher came about? What about monks praying daily? There's a breath cadence, a rhythm.
When I'm ready to be contemplative, awake and aware of God's presence, I shift. I start with my breath and my focus.
A side note here is that if you pray silently, the tendency runs toward head games, distractions, and 'run away thoughts.' Use your breath. Pray out loud, even at times with "groanings too deep for words." That 'private and personal' stuff has to go. You're a disciple of Jesus after all.
So when you're ready to focus and deepen your devotion to Jesus, to dive into your spiritual life, remember, your breath and your spirit are linked together.
And for Jesus sake, realize that your breath and your brain functions are tied together too. So breathe deeply and slowly.
Let me put it another way: Your breath arises with your spirit from the seat of your being. And that my friend, is where you commune with God.
You are a human being, not a human doing, first and foremost. Spend time just being present with God. 'Hang out'...just soak it all in. And let your religious preconceptions be burned up in the knowledge of knowing Him.
He knows you and He loves you. He's your Father. Your eternal and heavenly Father, who will never leave you nor forsake you. He wants to spend time with you.
Get to know Him.
Now, "may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you now and forevermore. Amen."
Photo Credit: Kevin Coner Keller