Experiencing God in this Holy Present


flickr-sculpture-worship-kissAt my work, we recently had a training on mindfulness. Now, before you roll your eyes, it was maybe my favorite work training I’ve ever done. It was engaging, practical, and participatory like few trainings are.

Anyway, “mindfulness” is the fancy word used to describe a “non-judgmental awareness of the present”. It’s heightening your senses and calming yourself in order to fully inhabit the present without analyzing it, mulling it, or needing to evaluate it. For those of us with anxiety issues, it really is an amazing way of centering and calming oneself, as well as separating oneself from the internal busyness–at least for a moment.

Another way of putting it is that it is radical present-ness. It is letting this very moment not be merely something you’re passing through as a bridge from the moment that has passed and into the moment that is not yet here. It is to fully inhabit the moment you find yourself in, and let the future come to you rather than anxiously trying to run towards it.

Not gonna lie. It was very spiritual to me. I felt more in tune to God and it got me thinking about how we mystically experience Him in our everyday lives.

When an Atheist talks about this hard-wired human sense to feel the “Numinous”, it often carries with it the sense that it rises from within us. When a lot of Christians talk about meeting the Divine, it often sounds like a presence that comes pointedly at us from outside of us. I’m starting to think that neither of these is right.

Continue reading

Introducing Marginalia: a new part of this blog


schrott-bibles-paul-coffee

I’ll be honest. It’s been years since I’ve been able to find a way to regularly read the Bible that sticks and works for me. To be frank, readings plans usually don’t work for me because I get bored. Depending on the plan, you’re either stuck in the same book for long stretches of time or you’re jumping around so much that you lose the sense of the whole.
This year, I think I’ve started a regimen that is clicking: the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan. At any given time, I’m going through four completely different part of Scripture and for me, this is keeping me really engaged. As I’ve gone on through the plan these past couple of months, I started highlighting and writing up little notes on random verses here and there. Lots of themAnd I’d like to share them with you.

So today, I’m introducing a new little part of this blog called Marginalia, where I’ll be posting these short little meditations on Scripture as I go through this plan.
Continue reading

What Draws Out Jesus’ Compassion? | Matthew 15.32


Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way.”

Matthew 15.32

What evokes Jesus’ compassionate response and provision? Faithfulness, neediness, and weakness. That’s it. Not performance, not even belief. Just walking with him while being needy.

Further, we can be confident that he knows our need and knows we will “faint on the way” without him responding. And respond he will.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Advent & Hoping for God to be With Us


icon-Nativity-christmasThis is the meditation I wrote that appeared in this weekend’s reading and reflection in Liberti Church’s Advent 2013 Prayerbook, which can be downloaded for free.

The Reading:

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.

If you’ve been keeping up with this Prayerbook (or any Advent guide), then congratulations! I hope it’s spoken to you and you have experienced God in its readings and meditations.

That being said, you might be wondering: why is this Prayerbook continuing after Christmas Day?

It was only a couple of years ago I found out that in the Church Calendar, Christmas is not just a day—it’s an entire season! Advent Season leads into Christmas Season. Why is this? Advent has a similar relationship to Christmas that Lent does to Easter: it’s meant to be the time of reflection, preparation, and repentance that prepares us for the unbridled, no limits, over-the-top celebration and joy of Christmas. Our spiritual ancestors knew that celebration takes time and preparation. That’s what Advent has been.

But now we’re in the Christmas Season—the time of complete unfettered celebration. But why?
Continue reading

Advent & Longing for Home


Sandorfi-MadeleineThis is the meditation I wrote that appears in a reading and reflection in Liberti Church’s Advent 2013 Prayerbook, which can be downloaded for free.

There is an incredibly profound way in which we don’t feel at Home in our own humanity.

Too often, Christians see their own personal spiritual growth as a loss, a lessening, or an abandoning of their own humanity. This can lead us to subtly use people and things to try and find our soul’s Home. And so we awake to find anxiety, manipulation, doubt, guilt, and self-loathing ruling and reigning so many parts of our lives and relationships. (Am I alone in this?)

We can sometimes think of Christianity as a process of our souls leaving the “Home” of their weakened humanity and finding a “new, spiritual Home” in Jesus. The logic goes that you were originally one way, then Jesus “saved” you, and now you are able (and are commanded) to be something else, now that you are His.

But Advent radically flies in the face of this.
Continue reading

Advent & Hoping for Justice


Massacre-of-innocentsThis is the meditation I wrote that appears in today’s reading and reflection in Liberti Church’s Advent 2013 Prayerbook, which can be downloaded for free.

First, a question.

Think back on the Christmas story. After Jesus is born, when he’s about three-years old, King Herod puts out a decree calling for the death of all infants, trying to kill Jesus. An angel comes to Joseph in a dream and tells him to flee to Egypt to prevent Jesus from dying in this slaughter.

Here’s the question: why flee to Egypt?

If they stayed and Herod killed the child Jesus, wouldn’t that still be the Son of God dying unjustly at the hands of a Roman provincial governor? Why go to all that effort to wait 30 years later for the same thing to happen on a cross?
Continue reading

Advent & Hoping for Peace


Rothko-untitled-2This is the meditation I wrote that appears in today’s reading and reflection in Liberti Church’s Advent 2013 Prayerbook, which can be downloaded for free.

This world is anything but peaceable. Humanity is constant in its injustice and wickedness inflicted upon one another across this world. It makes you wonder if “humane” is a misnomer. And we can’t just blame all of this on free will, either. The natural world rages against us with its own violence with staggering regularity. And all of this hits home the most when it’s those closest to us that suffer under this world with little peace on hand.

We look at all of this and ask that oldest of questions: “Why?” But when we open the pages of Scripture, we don’t find answers to this seemingly core thread running through our existence. The God of the Bible seems far more concerned with answering “what” questions than “why” questions–what is the nature of reality? what is the problem with the world? what is the solution?

But there is good news for all of us that struggle against the violence of this world: Advent.

In Advent, God does not merely see our why‘s and disregard them as silly and human; he does not simply leave us to our own to wrestle and struggle and doubt. He doesn’t answer our whys. He simply looks at us and the world with compassion, acknowledges to us the way things are, and rolls up his sleeves to address it.
Continue reading

Tomorrow, I start posting again.


paul-window-guatemala-logoAny regular follower of the blog has seen that in the past week and a half that I haven’t really been posting. This is a big change from the near-daily posts I was putting up all the way through my trip to Guatemala.

Though a big part of the silence has been time constraints after being out of the country, the main reason has been the (literally) speechless state in which Guatemala left me. I’ve needed this time to process, talk to people, pray, and find the words in which the community and people of La Limonada would dress themselves in my mind.

I think I now have these words (or at least the provisional ones; we’ll see what time does), and so expect the blogging to pick back up tomorrow. I’m looking forward to getting back to this; I’ve honestly missed it a lot.

See you then.

photo by Scott Bennnett

Intelligent Repentance: Hearing our Hearts


[This is part of my 2013 Lent series: Reflections on Repentance.]

“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink— even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk— it’s all free!
Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.

“Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
See how I used him to display my power among the peoples.
I made him a leader among the nations.
You also will command nations you do not know, and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey,
because I, the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious.”

Seek the Lord while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.
Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong.
Let them turn to the Lord that he may have mercy on them.
Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously.

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

The writings of the Prophet Isaiah, Chappter 55, verses 1-9 Continue reading

I Am A Fearful Man (and i need to get over it) {pt1}


[Read Part 2 and Part 3 of this series]

Oh the perils of post-modernity.

There once was a time where I was arrogant in what I thought I knew. I know, I know, many of you are thinking “once”? Let me explain.

I grew up in the South; or at least (if you don’t believe Dallas is in the True South) the Bible Belt. I was raised in an atmosphere that choked with fundamentalism. What’s more, I was fully enveloped in this culture as a Southern Baptist, and all of the cultural retardation that accompanied it. Most everyone in my world was “religious”. Actors and “liberals” were the only ones that were “atheists”, and they were all in Hollywood, D.C., or Berekeley–far, far away. I lived my younger years not knowing even of the existence of other “denominations”. Everyone in Texas was either Catholic or Southern Baptist, and in Sunday School they taught me that Catholics believed in salvation by works and were therefore not going to heaven anyway. Only we Baptists were right. In short, I grew up with a sense that I was part of the cosmic “in” crowd: God’s One and Only Faithful.

Continue reading

“Lord have mercy…”


[journal entry dated 2/28/10]

Father? Daddy?

I’m so f—-ed up. That’s just the best phrase for it. It’s Lent. It’s only a week in and I’ve already broken my fast several times. Why? Why can’t I just…stop?

(Okay, I get it.)

The point of giving something up for Lent is not to just “give something up”. At the heart-level it’s supposed to be a sign of devotion to You. That’s what it is at heart. And you know our hearts, Daddy. You know they’re weak. You know they’re willing. I’m willing Father, I’m just so f—-ing weak…

Ha!

I sound like “high-school Paul” all over again with those old Christian flavors of angst and “emo-ness”. I suppose there’s a place for him somewhere in my walk with You. But what is it? I’m not quite sure. But I don’t think he’s supposed to be here right now.

I’m secure. I’m loved. I’m Yours. I’m pleasing to You. I’m approved.

Continue reading

Holy Day Meditations: Jesus Presented at the Temple


The backbone of my morning and evening meditations and prayer has become the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. It has taken me a while to figure out how to use it (with a lot of help from a friend), and I’m still clumsily trying to make my way along, but it is an amazing book. It gives just the right amount of both freedom and structure to give me both guidance and excitement. I’m really enjoying it. Secondly, I am a relatively new member of a church that belongs to the Reformed Church in America. Both of these things has led me to encounter ancient church documents, creeds, and traditions I was never exposed to as a Bible Belt Southern Baptist.

One of those newfound traditions that is really becoming a major part of my life is the Church Calendar. According to the calendar, we are currently in the season of Epiphany, where the church celebrates the travel of the Wise Men to see Jesus, therefore declaring him King and Lord among all the nations, and today is the Church Holy Day on which we celebrate Jesus’ presentation by His parents in the temple (forty days after Christmas) (Luke 2:22-40). As I went through the Daily Lectionary this morning, I found that focusing on this event and meditating on it bore some very real personal fruit that I wished to share.

Continue reading