I am Not

I am not God.
I don’t have all the answers.
I don’t always trust.
I am not consistent.
I am not God.

I am broken.
I do break promises.
I am self-seeking at times.
I self-centered at times.
I fail.
I am frail at times.

I am not God.
I am not Lord.
I am not Savior.
I am not the source.

And that’s good news…

Being the Beloved

Pain is a teller of grief and loss.

[silence]

The hardest thing for me to believe is that I am loved and lovable. I can hide behind a veneer of victimization (“what about me” syndrome) as a zone to protect myself. But it leads to more sadness and depression. And then the voice of shame really goes to work on me, robbing me of any feeling of being at home with myself.

[silence]

I long to…

  • love and be loved
  • understand and be understood
  • see and be seen
  • value and be valued
  • hear and be heard
  • know and be known
  • like and be liked

[silence]

Like Mary looking for Jesus at the tomb, I too am looking for something that I’ve lost, something that gets taken from me: the voice of being loved. Failure, shame, guilt…take it from me.

Something has died in me and I’m looking for where it might have gone.

Why am I grieving? And what am I looking for? Two questions for the journey. I’ve lost the voice of being the beloved. I’m hoping to hear it again.

[silence]

“Do not be afraid for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by your name – you are mine…
Because you are precious in my presence, you have been glorified,
and I love you.” (Isaiah 43:1-4)

Preparing to Preach

I came across this post on book recommendation geared for the weekly pastor-preacher. 

I found the book review post very helpful, given that I’ve had certain proclivities to prepping in the manner discussed but also about using the lectionary text. There’s a bit of liturgical theology that I feel drawn towards. 

I liked the idea of letting the text percolate throughout the week, allowing it to marinate and fill the imagination. Much of the work is listening to the text and Holy Spirit. That requires intentional listening and time.

It was encouraging to think through preaching prep from this perspective. It makes it feel more like a daily habit of listening to how the Word is providing daily bread for a meal to be spread out on preaching day.

trinity quote

“God’s mystery is more than a revealed truth; it is God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit entering into creation, sharing its dark side, ransoming it from rebellion of sin and integrating it in eternal communion.”

Leonardo Boff, Trinity and Society (p.160)

Spiritual Awakenings

For a long time, I wanted to be admired and liked, so much that I didn’t know who I really was. As I get into my 40s, I have felt more exposed and in touch with my failings. It’s felt raw and overwhelming at times.

But I’m grateful for a spouse and friends who remind me of who I am. They’ve been a presence of encouragement throughout my inner struggles to shed false identities and claim belovedness.

There’s more to come. There’s more I’d love to accomplish. But I’m grateful that if I don’t hit my personal goals, I’m loved.

During Holy Week, I long to know that my false self doesn’t inhibit God’s grace and compassion towards me. I long to know this new reality that Jesus offers through death and resurrection.

Healing from Loss

During a grief counseling visit, a family member of the deceased shared some wisdom with me. They said, “if I’m sad, I allow myself to be sad. If I’m mad, I allow myself to be mad. And if I cry, I allow myself to cry.”

Losing a loved one breaks the heart. There is no way to explain the amount of suffering and pain some may feel. But there is hope. Like grief, hope also comes in waves. The heart does heal. Memories give life. And we learn to live again.

God’s promises to heal our broken hearts is seen in the following story…

My friend recently wrote this beautiful depiction of how healing and hope have visited his heart. With his permission, I’m sharing it for all my friends and people I serve who are currently in the healing process:

Yesterday morning I received a text message from [my wife] asking if I was ok… I was totally confused and so I asked her why she was asking if I was ok. She then reminded me that it was the anniversary of my my dads going on with the Lord.

You know that for the first time since his passing I actually felt PEACE. It is a sign that healing has taken root in my life.

Of course I remembered him on Friday when I heard of the loss of a childhood friend and I began to feel the pains again of the moment I saw him take his last breath but… yesterday… when I was reminded of his passing… I actually had a day free of tears but then just smiled and thanked God for giving me peace at last.

Some people heal faster than others and remember to give those in their process plenty of love and support.

Healing False Images of God

They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+6&version=NIV;MSG

I once heard someone say that the moment you ask “why”, you’re a theologian. And we all ask why, which means we all have some kind of working image of God.

The Christian faith says Christ Jesus is the full revelation of God. God incarnate. Emmanuel, God with us. For 3.5 years, Jesus is near and revealing Himself. Most don’t get who He is. His 11 disciples (one of them betrays him) don’t get Him completely.

We’re constantly imposing our image of ourselves onto God.
“Isn’t he the son of Joseph?”
“Jesus can’t be the bread of life!”
“We grew up with him, in Nazareth. We know His parents!”

Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t react to our images of Him. He is “self-differentiated” enough to be who He is: King of kings and Lord of lords. Our idolatrous impositions don’t move him.

Yet we are to pray for a truth based image of God that rightly sees Him as King and Lord, aligning our lives to His purposes and goodness. Jesus is admonishing the pharisees to see Him for who He really is. This will take some self-reflection on their part.

Our prayer today is that we would be people who allow God to be God, imaging Him for the King and Lord that He is.

Mystery Reveals My Heart

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

In Christian tradition, one great claim and aim is to be made in the image of God. This means to experience a transformation such that we become who we have always been: children of God who imitate the One who creates and loves. Orthodox theologians call this theosis: the process of becoming one with God.

In this union with Christ, we become as He is. “Christ becomes like us (incarnation) that we might become like him (theosis).”

My assertion is that this process of theosis most happens in mystery and suffering. Moses becomes a holy person through his own desert experience after leaving everything he knows: Egyptian living, customs, and rites. His Egyptian identity is shattered when he learns of his Hebrew roots. This crisis of identity leads him to act in ways contrary to God-like character, shifting him into the desert for 40 years. He enters a mystery, a great unknown.

Jesus enacts the Christ identity most on the cross when He takes on sin and death, trusting that the Father is not limited by death. Since Christ is the ultimate icon of theosis, we might dismiss the example and say, “Well, this is Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” and be done with the story. But incarnation and theosis are claiming that we too will go through our own process of desert/cross/mystery.

I’m in a season of mystery and am handling more like Moses, pre-desert. I’m more like Peter who is sold out and convinced one moment, but then betrays Jesus the next.

To be in a season of mystery and the great unknown shake my core of trust, destabilizes my devotion to Christ, and causes a feeling petulance. How’s that for someone who claims to trust and follow God?!

The word mystery is about hiddenness and is closely related to mystic. To be a mystic requires a self-surrender (a kenosis…self-emptying) to the Great Mystery. I don’t know what this all means, but I’m comforted by the reality not all of life is explained away in three easy steps to success.

It brings my comfort to know that I am called to surrender to Mystery and be shaped by God to be like him in all things. During this lenten season, life feels dark, foggy, and cloudy. There are a few unknown variables in my life that are driving me crazy. I can’t control them or make them go away. I’ve been angry and irritable, much like Moses and Peter. The mystery of circumstances has revealed my childish and immature response. Mystery has revealed my heart…and it’s not pretty.

Last night during a worship time at our church, Christina broke script and sang a song that was not our list. I don’t remember the lyrics, mostly because I was confronted with a sense of the Holy. I put my drumsticks down, stood up, palms up. I was frozen and paralyzed in what felt like God’s focused presence. I remembered Isaiah 6:

“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.”

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=isaiah%206&version=NIV

In that moment, all I could do is surrender to Mystery and the Holy. When I got up this morning, I had a deeper hope and one that had the courage to surrender to Mystery.

I don’t have answers to some of my perplexing questions. But I have a sense of God’s presence in the Mystery and a grace to surrender.

Article: Sacred/Secular and loss of divine action

It seems like today’s cultural view on God has shifted mainly towards His inaction. Faith in our culture seems to have little to no transcendent quality. There is no more “mystery, transformation, and ontological encounter”. The writer’s use of baptism and the ontological reality that happens is getting lost.

Taylor’s perspective gives us both a window into the challenges we face and an explanation of why faith-formation initiatives have missed the mark. Seeing secular3 as the construct of an immanent frame allows us to see why a deeper theological construct is necessary, for the believability of divine action itself has come under question. To discuss faith in ministry, we are compelled to do so theologically, exploring how transcendence might be testified to in a secular age of unbelief.

https://www.catalystresources.org/faith-formation-in-a-secular-age/