27 October 2009

Meditation: "Change"

"Change is inevitable. Growth is optional." (unknown)

"We fear change." (Garth Algar in the comedy "Wayne's World")

"So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Not long ago I was reading back through my journal. I'm not much of one for journaling, so this particular volume covers about a seven or eight year time span. It was absolutely fascinating to read thoughts, reflections, and observations from across close to a decade, three ministry appointments, and two countries.

On the one hand, I was encouraged to see how much I have grown over the years. I've come a long way! I used to be terribly nervous before leading worship and preaching. I still get the jitters, but not nearly as much as recorded in this journal. I used to feel an overwhelming lack of self-confidence at times, but over the years that also has dissipated.

On the other hand, I was discouraged to notice how little I have changed over the years. The same childish frustrations, the same personality quirks, the same habits that don't serve me well--these are consistent over the years. (I would give you examples, but that would be TMI--"Too Much Information!") After seeing the same issues pop up year after year, I wonder--is lasting change possible? That is, are there elements to who we are that can never and will never change? Or is deep transformation of our hearts and lives really possible?

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement in England, would give an unequivocal yes to this question. He believed that as Christians actually live out their faith in practical ways--worshiping, praying, reading scripture, performing acts of compassion--they are shaped and changed more and more into the image of God. Indeed, he believed that it was possible for someone to be "made perfect in love" in this life. (At my ordination I was asked if I was "going on to perfection.") This isn't to be confused with perfectionism, but instead an affirmation that the power of God's grace is always working on us. And as we cooperate with it and open ourselves to it, God's grace will move us on toward being "perfected in love."

As a Christian who believes in the power of God to transform lives, like Wesley I, too, wish to affirm the possibility of deep and lasting change in our lives. But what I'm becoming more and more aware of is that I can't sit back and let God do all the heavy lifting. I have to have the courage to identify those places where God isn't done with me yet, and then faithfully and attentively seek God's help in being molded more and more into the uniquely loving shape that God has in mind for me.

Based on what I was reading in my journal, I've got my work cut out for me! But, as Jesus said, "with God, ALL things are possible."



08 October 2009

Meditation: "A Knot of Love"

"I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit..." (John 15:5)

"God’s heartbeat can be heard in the whole of life and at the heart of our own lives, if we will only listen." (J. Philip Newell)


Dear Friends,

Last May I gave a sermon entitled, "A Knot of Love." On the cover of the order of worship that day was a picture of a Celtic knot. (You can see image samples of Celtic knot work here.) For some reason, this past week I've been thinking back to that sermon and especially to the image of the Celtic knot.

We human beings are pretty good at compartmentalizing our lives. I know I am. "God-time" is Sunday morning or when I am intentionally praying or reading something "spiritual." That is distinct from "family time" or "meal time" or "exercising time"... You get the idea. Sometimes I get discouraged with myself for not carving out more time to cultivate a connection to God. I can fall into that false choice between nurturing my spiritual life or doing "stuff that needs to be done". But what I too often forget is that cultivating a spirit-filled life means practicing the presence of God at the heart of *all* life--no matter what I am doing.

The ancient Celts who were Christian understood that God was not just up in the sky, that "God-time" could not be confined to an hour here or there. They understood that all of creation was shot-through with God-reality, that it is God who pulsates in and through all of the universe. Celtic knot work reflects this essential orientation to life--God and humanity all tangled up together, God and creation all intertwined with one another, inseparable.

I still deeply believe that intentional times of prayer and study, of contemplation and reflection, of worship with other Christians is essential for those who wish to grow more and more into the likeness of God. But, having said that, the image of a Celtic knot reminds me that God will not be confined to those times. The image of a Celtic knot invites me to know that in each and every moment, in each and every breath--and the spaces in between--God IS. Thanks be to God!

Blessings on your week,


Prayer: God, help us listen for your heartbeat deep within our lives, at all times and in all things. Amen.