The Power of Appreciation When We Meet Our Limits

What is it about life that makes it so impossible sometimes to focus? I mean about priorities, relationships, perspective. Our ambitions and projects seem to steer us away so swiftly from deep inspirations, which flow from our hearts.  At every turn, we painfully meet our limitations.  The psalmist says, “Every person’s life is like a breath.”   We must not follow every rabbit trail idea, which flips through our heads nor struggle to answer every question that disturbs even our silent spaces.

And from time to time, we meet those rare moments when death stares us in the face and reminds us that he too will knock on our door.

Yet, on days when I loose sight of the end or on days when I stare in it face to face, I pull out appreciation.  When I squander my priorities and lock myself away from those seeking to give me their love, only one powerful tool remains: appreciation. Try it.  Give thanks with a grateful heart.  Appreciation is a pill to swallow that transforms disappointments into opportunities for growth. Appreciation gives light to our path when the darkness of drudgery casts its wintery shadow on our sunlit thirsty souls.  We cannot always muster the strength to appreciate this life.  But when we do, we pierce that force that forever seeks to blind us to our limitations and convince us that our life is more than a breath.

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An Unknown Prayer By St. Francis

May We Make Our Way To You

50. Almighty, eternal, just, and merciful God, grant us in our misery [the grace] to do for You alone what we know You want us to do, and always to desire to please you.

51. Thus, inwardly cleansed, interiorly enlightened, and inflamed by the fire of the Holy Spirit, may we be able to follow in the footprints of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

52. And, by Your grace alone, may we make our way to You, Most High, Who live and rule in perfect Trinity and simple Unity, and are glorified God all-powerful forever and ever.

Amen

Back to “Prayers of the Saints”

Saturdays Through Ephesians

For me and my family, Saturdays are for rest and the Word of God.  For a time, I am dwelling in Ephesians, so I thought I would invite you along.  What you will read is my translation, which like Eugene Peterson’s translation, reads more like a paraphrase than a literal interpretation.  So, with that in mind, here’s hoping that Saturdays through Ephesians gives us both rest in a restless age.

 

Ephesians 2.1-10

And you.  You were dead in trespasses and in your sins.  In them you once tromped around charting your course off of a human made map, which is at some level inevitably linked with the powerful ruler of the spiritual air.  He is now at work in disobedient sons and daughters.  We have all been there before, captive to the passions of our weak flesh, doing the will of our weakness all out of our impulses.

And like the rest, we were children whose nature deserved wrath.

But God, exerting his wealth, made a life for us together with Christ.  He did it out of his great love, which he put into action for us.  He made a life for us, because we were dead in our transgressions.  Do you realize it? You are being saved by grace.

God did some resurrecting and made arrangements for us to sit in the heavens with Christ Jesus.  God did all this so that in the ages to come you might have a seat to glimpse the great richness of his grace in Christ Jesus, in kindness to us.

For you are being saved by grace through faith.

And this is not out of your own ability.  It is a gift from God.  This is not out of your own works, so that a person could not boast in himself.

We are what God made us to be: creatures molded after Christ Jesus.  We do the good things that God prepared, and we tromp around saturated in them.

Asbury International

TRENDING GLOBAL EXPERIENCES AT ASBURY THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

 

 

Reflecting: January 23-29, 2010:                    Anticipating: January 30- Feb. 5, 2010:

Reflecting

Beeson Center: Blessed Earth

Blessed Earth: Serving God, Saving the Planet

A multifacted group of Wilmore/ Lexington/ Asbury participants joined the free luncheon in Cordelia A & B from noon to 1pm on January, 28th.  Coming on the heels of Blessed Earth’s board meeting, Directors Matthew and Nancy Sleeth greeted the participants along with Tom Tumblin, Dean of the Beeson Center and Dr. Kalas, Asbury Seminary’s recent President.

The lunch provided the platform for the Sleeths to unveil upcoming ventures with Asbury Seminary including the tiered increase of course work in creation care as well as the potential for intential creation care communities in the new Kalas village.  Other ideas in the works include a growing relationship with Asbury University and possible test orchards/ gardens for sustainable living.

Upcoming

Wilmore Life: The Whole Gospel for the Whole World Mission Conference.

February 13-29, 2011.

  • Sunday, Feb. 13 :: 8.30 and 11am Wilmore United Methodist Church: Preacher, C.V. Elliott
  • Wednesday, February 16 :: 5.30 Wilmore UMC: Meal Cuban Food
  • Wednesday, February 16 :: 6.15pm Wilmore UMC: Program focus on Cuba – Diane Sanchez and Reynir Rosales giving testimony
  • Sunday, February 20 :: 8.30 and 11am Wilmore UMC: Preacher Rev. David McFarland from Nathaniel Mission in Lexington.

Beeson Center: The Beeson Lectures.

February 15-17, 2011.

  • Tuesday, Feb. 15 :: 11 am Estes Chapel: “Redemption in Suffering”
  • Tuesday, Feb. 15 :: Noon: Talk Back Session in Cordelias
  • Wednesday, Feb. 16 :: 10 am University Chapel: “Obedience, Key to Revival”
  • Wednesday, Feb. 16 :: 3pm BC231/232: “Preaching Seminar: Preaching in the Spirit
  • Thursday, Feb. 17 :: 11am Estes Chapel: “Acts 9:1-19, The Secret in Suffering”

Join guest lecturer Dr. Jeannine Brabon Professor of Biblical Hebrew, University Foundation Biblical Seminary of Colombia. She received her Bachelor in Education from Asbury College and Master of Arts in Religion at Asbury Theological Seminary in 1981.  She also completed advanced studies in Biblical Hebrew at the Complutense University in Madrid, and was rewarded an honorary doctorate degree in Christian ministry from Asbury College.  Brabon has been a professor at the University Foundation Biblical Seminary since 1986 as a missionary in her own country under the covering of OMS Internationa, which has sponsored  her for more than 30 years.

Global Community Development: Trip to the Freedom Center.

Saturday, February 19th thru Sunday, February 20th.

Join the crew for the 2011 formational trip to the Underground Railroad Freedom Center.  Come along and bring your families on this overnight or day trip.  The group leaves at 8.30am on Saturday and will spend the day 10am – 5pm in the museum.  Then the group will eat and reflect from 6.30-8pm.  Day trippers are asked to stay for the reflection.

There are 8 scholarships available for interested individuals or families.  Scholarships include museum ticket, travel stipend, and hotel cost. All food is on your own.  To apply, send a 400 word essay on why you want to join the trip.  Essays can be sent to gcd.asbury@asburyseminary.edu by Friday, Feb. 4th.

Lexington Life: Walk for Warmth

The Walk for Warmth will be held on Saturday, February 26th from 10 a.m. to noon, starting and ending at Phoenix Park (in front of the central branch of the Lexington Public Library). Register online at www.walkforwarmth.org, and help fight homelessness.

Help prevent homelessness in Lexington. Join us for the Lexington Rescue Mission’s 4th Annual Walk for Warmth to raise money for our Homeless Prevention Program. This program provides emergency financial assistance for rent and utility bills to families in need in addition to budget counseling, case management, resource referral and spiritual care. For every $100 raised, we can prevent an individual or a family from being evicted or having their utilities shut off.

Is There Wisdom in all Faiths? The Example of Yoga.

Have you got your Pilate on lately?  I mean that type of stretching, which is good for heart, mind, and body–I’m not talking anything about that dude who oversaw Jesus’ trial.  Yoga and Eastern stretching have caught on in the US, but few folks actually know about the ancient wisdom, which gave yoga its life.  Now, I am not one of those “yoga is of the devil” Christians–though I do take seriously the positive and negative spiritual forces to which we expose ourselves.  And, it seems like when it comes to world scriptures and ancient wisdom, I do not dwell at the usual extremes: on the one hand folks think there is not a shred of wisdom or goodness in ‘other’ scriptures; on the other hand, folks unwisely open and attach themselves to partial truths and imposters.  After all, I have seen many in my own tradition negatively possessed by our rituals and sacrifices.  In the end, I want to keep my heart both open and guarded especially to ancient traditions, for in them we find the fingerprints of the divine and sometimes God himself.

Making Sense of Wisdom and Revelation

I realize I am opening up Pandora’s religious box.  So, I would be careless not to explain how, as a Christian, I revere the wisdom of our world and remain convinced of the supreme revelation and applicability of God’s wisdom incarnate.  In total, I have a high view of culture, I distinguish between wisdom and revelation, I understand Christ as God’s wisdom en-cultured, and as a practitioner of spirituality, I find that wisdom from around the world can support and sometimes strengthen my ability to live my tradition more faithfully.

About Yoga–and its description in the Bhagavad Gita–, I will quickly note here that from it (I mean beyond the oversimplification and irony of our American version), we can learn about the role of things to which we are over-attached in this life.  We can learn a bit of devotion and contemplation from our Indian brothers and sisters.  And, though I am convinced that the revelation in Jesus Christ shows us the clearest picture of reality and the human condition, it seems like those who wrote the Gita had their finger already placed on the personal nature of God and human life in so many ways: in devotion and love for God, in the difference between those who really understand the spiritual life and those who are just reciting what they learned in Sunday school, and in the humility of knowing one’s self and not taking yourself to seriously, for example.

And as I wrote this post, I realized just how deep this topic reaches: into revelation, inspiration, inter-faith dialogue.  There is not space here to unfold this all.  Stay tuned for a resource I am building for you on ancient wisdom (particularly yoga) and it’s place in your faith tradition.

Travel Diaries: Chang Mai Thailand

We only scratched the ancient surface of Chang Mai Thailand.  But who knows how far back we went when we learned to cook Thai recipes passed down from generation to generation. Plus we had a great experience and a satisfied belly. So, if you are ever in Chang Mai Thailand, devote a day to cooking school.

We chose Baan Thai.  Located right outside the old city walls, Baan Thai was the perfect mid-sized city location to learn to cook the country’s most famous cuisine.

Chang Mai rests in the mountainous north of Thailand about a day’s train or an overnight train ride from Bangkok.  Thailand has an incredible transit system, so it is an easy in.  The city can trace itself back 700 years and boasts walls and temples at least back five hundred. CM lacks no charm.  So, when we picked up fliers for cooking class, it was almost a no-brainer.

Class started early and ended late.  We found our way to the grounds, and after  meeting the 7 or so other lucky tourists, the courteous instructors swept us away to the markets.  She showed us just what to look for as we purchased our ingredients for four meals.  Basket in hand, we discovered foods like ginger for the first time again. Other vegetables, I have not heard from since.

As the day went on, we completed recipe after recipe and delighted in the cashew chicken and green curry.  We discovered oyster sauce and learned about the pains, which create the curry paste.  We cracked coconuts and make milk.  And just when we felt like we could not eat any more, out came the next recipe.   I remember so distinctly reclining with our comrades and listening to Thai lore.  We even got a recipe book “compliments of the manager” :).  I have cooked with it for six years now but have not yet been able to recreate the authentic taste from that day.  Needless to say, I visit Thai restaurants now with a new appreciation and a greater ability to navigate the menu.  When in Thailand, you have got to take cooking school.

 

Back to “Travel Diaries”

Have I Been Created?

So, if my intuitions are correct, I wonder if one of the most divisive questions out there is this: have I been created?  I don’t hear much talk around the subject outside of the “is there a God” debate.  Yet, when we talk about such things, we don’t often ask about how it affects us.  Have I been created?  Your answer will determine a lot about how you life your life.

I suppose, too, there are a cacophony of answers to the question.  They probably range from beliefs in personal gods to a universal force, from no god to human existence by mere permutation.  In the end, I am convinced that there is a lot at stake in how you answer it.  At the very least, absence of a creator should, by logic, increase your levels of anxiety.  And at the most, the existence of a creator or creative force should impact the way your live your life.

I once randomly met a Vietnam vet in a Walmart.  He served in the force as a sniper.  After a bone-chilling rendition of his war horrors, this man confidently stated his belief that a good God could not have created him.  He had seen too much and killed too many.  He lamented further that my generation had no idea about the War.  He was right.  Yet, as I pressed into him with questions, I could tell he was living with inconsistent internal narratives (like most of the rest of us). He finally admitted his belief that he himself was good and could coexist in the midst of evil men. I told him that if he would just try to talk to God that night, I would read a book on Vietnam.  We planned to meet a month later in a cafe, and as he left he turned and said to me, “You know, son, I knew that I would meet you here today.  I just knew something good was going to happen.”

A belief in a good Creator is different than a belief in simply being created altogether, just as much as belief in a malevolent God is not the same thing as a belief in no Creator.  But, in the end, we all must contend with the dramatic human experience of the divine, of a mystery Who— or a force, which goes about forming the universe. If you believe that we are all here by happenchance, you have a mass of human experience standing between you and your evidence.   I don’t mean to sound harsh.  After all, a huge percentage of people who believe in a Creator go around as if there were not a God at all.  Life has its pain.  And there are good reasons not to believe in a God, but if we are honest about the testimony of humanity for thousands of years, we discover great meaning and our place in the grand drama if we find our rightful place as the magnificent creation of a Creating Mystery.  Any other way of seeing it seems  to me too mixed in human brokenness and the spirit of our age.

But, I am open to your ideas.