Saturday, January 3, 2015

First Thoughts of 2015...kind of

I hope for more ridiculous faces in 2015!
So, the first blog post of the year, but be to be honest, the second attempt. It turns out my first thoughts of the year are not yet quite refined enough to be put into words. I need to meditate on the subject a wee bit longer. Instead, my first thoughts are about a little reading I did this morning. But before I get into that, I have felt like there are two big changes in the way I am approaching my “quiet times” with God this year.

First, for about three years or so I have lived in the Psalms. They have become a refuge for me. I have read the entire book of Psalms every month for this time and really just seen the ways that the Psalms are theology as much as Paul, even if we don’t like it. Instead of the Psalms I am moving into John. I feel inasmuch as the Psalms have taken a few years, John may take even longer. At times I worry that my knowledge of the Word of God may suffer from spending most of my life in just two books, but I trust that if that is where I am led…that is where I should be. It is a really interesting place to be.

Second, I feel like where in the past my quiet times have been about reading, 2015 (and maybe much beyond that!) is about reading and writing. I have become a consumer and part-time contributor to the world. I don’t know that my writing is as much about contributing to society as it is working through life. There comes this point where we can only consume so much without needing to work that consumption off or out. As gross as it is it’s like food. If we don’t work out and poop, we just store up without purpose and become unhealthy. I think that is what James was writing about when he said, we “must become not only hearers of the Word, but doers” (James 1:22). So, this is a year of writing. And today I am writing about something I read from one of my heroes…Mr. Thomas Merton. I was reading in The Wisdom of the Desert this morning and a couple of passages jumped out, but particularly this:

“They were humble, quiet, sensible people with a deep knowledge of human nature and enough understanding of the things of God to realize that they knew very little about Him. Hence they were not much disposed to make long speeches about the divine essence, or even to declaim on the mystical meaning of Scripture. If these men say little about God, it is because they know that when one has been somewhere close to His dwelling, silence makes a lot more sense than a lot of words (p 14).”

Seriously, look at this handsome devil. Hero status!
This thought really amused me and made me happy. I love the honesty with which Merton speaks. I understand the skepticism with which many of my friends reading these words may view my enjoyment. Most of the people in my life are Evangelicals. Evangelicals are nothing if not vocal about God. We like to have our knowledge and share it too! That's what we do. We vocalize our faith and make sure other people know it too. Our job is to make sure everyone knows rightly about God.

But this is something where I think the skeptics, strugglers and agnostics do a better service to the divine than we do. There is a humility in doubt. I try to maintain that humility even in confidence.

What now? You contradict yourself Mr. Love!
Well, yes…and no.

I have confident of assurance that this whole following Jesus thing is real. I do not have confidence that I fully understand it all…and at times any of it! Of course, I struggle with the big things that plague us as a society – suffering, pain, senseless violence, tragedies, etc. But beyond that I even struggle with things like, “What is God’s definition of justice or love;” “Should Christianity have ever held hands with any government;” “Is our individualism too pronounced, making our Christian ‘communities’ nothing more than self-congratulating gatherings that proclaim, ‘At least we’re not like those other people. Praise God for that!’”

Heck, there are times when the nature of God as Father, Jesus is Savior, the Holy Spirit as Comforter are challenged, because experience has dictated it to be so. This is why I say I try to maintain my humility even in confidence. Even on those days where this doesn’t seem real…I just can’t shake the sense that cosmically millions of people have had this feeling and real-life experiences. Yet, the men and women who have dedicated their lives to whole-hearted commitment are usually labeled simplistic or ascetic and too mystically minded to be of any good for us to follow Jesus.

If you know the myth of John the Beloved, it was said that in his old age the congregation used to bring him forward to speak. He always said the same thing, “Little children. Love one another.” That is frankly not a very challenging word for a man who once laid his head on Jesus’s chest and stood by with his mother when he was crucified. This is also the same man some believe to have written down the words and visions of Revelation. To have this crazy insider knowledge and to week-after-week say, “Hey guys…love each other,” doesn’t seem to be that life altering.

But the fact remains, if this is a true story, this was central to John’s revelation of Christ and was important enough that he was speaking it to the first, second, third and possibly fourth generation of Christians that this was it. This is what you do. He was not making bold proclomations of the character of God. He was saying, “We gotta figure out how to love one another or this doesn’t mean anything.”

And it is this same humility that I find important as we approach living out faith in 2015 and beyond. I can do without grand revelations from the greatest of prophets if it does not resort in this being more real, and more lived-in in my life. That is the great challenge – shaking off the academic nature that a bunch of facts about faith are going to change the lives of men and women who still have the marks of heroin needles in the arms and on their soul; or women who bear the shame of resorting to prostitution and bear the scorn of the Church instead of Her sympathy when some of Jesus’s followers were prostitutes themselves. 

I speak humbly and lightly of who God is, because I know from my time with Him…that I can’t ever know truly who He is until I see Him fully face-to-face. More later my friends, but for now I've reached my 1000 words I try to keep this around!

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