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Friday, March 30, 2007

Finding a Still Center

Many persons, ordained or not, live in a fairly constant state of noise, with their unresolved past and the uncertain present breaking in on them. They lack a still center and it is only for such a quiet point that we can listen attentively. -Urban T. Holmes, Spirituality for Ministry

I've been reflecting quite a bit today on the implications of this quote. I don't know about you, but I know that I live a life that is filled with "the uncertain present." Our world is moving so fast and so much is happening around us that it can be difficult to get our bearings and know who we are in the middle of it all. For me, my life is wrapped up in many things- being a seminary student, a track coach, a pastor, a loving husband and father, a friend- the list could go on. In the midst of all these activities and roles that I play, I wonder about who I really am. Am I by nature a coach? Is that mentoring role where I find my still center? This seems too peripheral a response. Am I by nature a husband and a father? While these are certainly more noble pursuits in my mind, they still come short of defining that still center.

For me, and for so many of you on this journey, that still center is found in one place only- being a loved son or daughter who lives under the grace of an Almighty God. As I reflect on that role, I realize that it demands little from me, in the sense that I cannot perform or work hard enough to belong to God. In another sense, however, I realize that this role requires everything of me. In order to truly live in the still center with God, I must give myself completely. If I am only part His, and part everyone else's, then I fail to discover that center all together.

Today, I want to live as a centered person- that in the midst of all that happens around me, I know who I am at my core. For it is from this still and uncompromising center that we are able to truly live.

May you experience more of God today as you journey on.

Nick

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Confluence of Life

Isn't that a great word? I actually had to look it up to make sure I'm using it right, but confluence means "a flowing together or gathering of events." I'm amazed at the number of times in my life it feels like there is a "confluence of events" where different pieces of the day come together in a remarkable way. I find that this is often how God speaks to me- in the random components of life that suddenly don't seem so random. Does this ever happen for you?

I've been reflecting lately on a podcast I picked up from Mars Hill church in Grand Rapids, MI. The pastor, Rob Bell, was giving a talk from the book of Exodus and he spent some time highlighting the way in which God fed the people- bread from heaven. This bread would come down every day, and the people were to gather as much as they needed for that day. I find it humorous how the NLT version of the Bible describes their next activity: "But, of course, some of them didn't listen and kept some of it until morning." The Israelites figured that they should get as much as they could so they could live off of it for awhile. The next morning, however, they found that their heavenly bread had become less than heavenly; maggot-ridden and rotten smelling. Yuck!

Here's the confluence of life. The next morning, I was pulling out my journal, and rather shamefully discovered that it had been quite some time since I had last written. I found this a little frightening because my journal is a good barometer of how often I have stopped to really think deeply- to consider who God is and what he's doing in my life. And so I sat there and wondered about the effects of my rushed life over the last few weeks and my unwillingness to stop and be with God. Suddenly, the message from the podcast came to my mind. God had promised to give his people what they needed for each day, but not enough for the next. I realized that I was living like my heavenly bread would last. I had gathered well one day, and then attempted to live off of that sustenance for the rest of the week. As I reflected on a week that had felt frantic and where I had felt heavily burdened, I wondered if I hadn't suffered the effects of "maggot-ridden bread."

In some way, we may find it frustrating that God only promises to give us enough for each day. Wouldn't it be easier if he was like a holy gas station, where we fueled up and then ran on that gas for several weeks or even a month? But then we'd miss the point. You see, in the desert, God wasn't just trying to feed the Israelites. He was trying to teach them to depend on Him for everything- every day and in every way. Throughout the Bible, He's a day by day kind of God. We're told not to worry about tomorrow, for today has enough trouble. We're told that God's love and mercy is new every morning. We're told not to make promises about what will happen tomorrow, because we've only been given today. Essentially, God is calling people to know Him in this day, and then tomorrow do it all over again.

I wonder how often we get so busy that we try to live off of day-old maggot-ridden bread, and as a result our souls face a slow death. What would it be like to become a "daily collector" of heavenly bread? What would it be like to go to God every day not out of debt, duty, or guilt, but out of a profound sense of our need, a profound sense of our hunger for Him?

May these questions cause you to stop and reflect on your journey.

Nick

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The Power to Remember

I just thought I'd share an insight from my reading this morning.

When we reflect on the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, it's easy to be critical of how fickle and rebellious they were towards God. From our perspective, we might say that their major problem was a heart attitude; deep down they just didn't want to follow or obey God. Interestingly enough, the Old Testament, particularly the Psalms, give us a different picture of the malady they faced. Psalm 78:10 gives a typical description of how Israel went astray,

They did not keep God's covenant,
and they refused to live by His law.

That sounds plain and simple enough. But the next verse is revealing, as it seems to answer the question, "Why?" Why did they not keep His covenant?

They FORGOT what he had done. (vs. 11)

And again a few verses later,

They forgot about His power...They forgot about His miraculous signs. (vs. 42, 43)

The Israelites plunged themselves into sin and rebellion primarily because they forgot about God! They forgot about His presence, His power, and His provision for them. As their vision of the Divine faded from view, their eyes turned to other things, and soon they were lost in the worship of other so called gods.

But in this passage comes one glimmer of hope; one flash of hope that they might get things right:

Then they REMEMBERED that God was their rock,
that their redeemer was the Most High. (vs. 35)

Unfortunately this awakening was short lived and the very next verse says they only honored God with their words and so fell back into rebellion. But I don't want to miss the point here. Could it be that one of the most spiritual things we do is simply to REMEMBER? To remember God's presence and think about him all through the day?

C.S. Lewis seemed to agree. In his book Letters to Malcom: Cheifly on Prayer, he said, "The real labor is to remember, to attend. In fact, to come awake. Still more, to remain awake." What Lewis was saying in this brief quote was that we don't find God by escaping from life and world around us, but by recognizing God within life and the world around us. As we are constantly aware of Him even in our routine and our common world, we come to know Him in a deeper, more profound way.

So now, may you be awake today; awake and aware to God who surrounds you at all times.

Remember Him on your journey.

Nick