Tag Archives: meditation

Spiritual Retreat: Anticipation of Snow

For the next few days,  I will continue posting a series of journal entries I made on a retreat last winter.  Every six months I try and take a few days away to regroup and focus on one spiritual master.  Last year, it was The Cloud of Unknowing.

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Day 2: Anticipation of Snow

The day passes quickly as I read, and eat, and sleep some.  I rest, no doubt, but my mind is mingled with struggle, to let my work and worries pass away in a cloud of forgetting and to come naked before my creator.  This is not work for the faint hearted, coming to terms with hidden pride in places you would rather not look yet letting waves of mercy transform one’s deformed and dissapointed heart.  For many unwanted things can grow on the windows of one’s soul when the cares of life demand your concern.  And though I have come here for clarity of direction, to wipe the window clean, what I find is the eyes of a living Mystery looking back at me and leading me into depths of faith unfathomed where I must go and leave my pre-packaged questions and answers behind.

Indeed the day of solitude quickly passes, and as night comes again I heed the primordial call to rest, having no idea of the oncoming gift (consolation) that lies in store for me the next morning…

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Steward of Creation: A Prayer-Poem

In Darkness I clutch a created thing
With sense that to it I’ve been given
To watch and heed and shelter growth
No tiny task to bear

“Now, steward them all and show dominion”
I hear with mix-ed troubled mind
So onto the search for God’s intentions
A blueprint for His care

“You’ll steward the whole of the fishy sea”
Please know they breathe the water in
So care for it and heed my will:
A swarm of scaly things

“You’ll steward the feathery flocks of birds
for through their likeness I’ll proclaim
“My Son, I’m pleased, they’ll heed your words”
my Holy Spirit sings

“You’ll steward the tiny creeping things”
Their grassy blades: cathedral walls
I do not want you harming them
They fertilize my soil

“For eating and tasting, I give most trees”
That bear a barkened fruity seed
And to the lowly animals
Greens grown without your toil

So, watching and heeding please shelter growth
And with your faith all things will bloom
And one more thing, I want more you’s
My family multiply

 

 

The edges and bordering lines of Eden
Expand across this vista’ed wood
It’s good, the wood, and all I’ve made
Now rest with me tonight

I’m watching you drift into peaceful rest
And soon the sun will westward set
And, here’s one law to rule our wood
One tree, you see: restricted.

For eating its fruit in the cool of the day
Might bring you worlds of bursting light
But death to you its pulp imparts
The consequence: evicted.

 

 

Arising we from our Sabbath’s sleep
With moon afresh on Eden’s camp
And flushed in mind we go in haste,
to shady midnight oak.

Dreaming or waking I am not sure
And into shadowed branches stare
Entranced on fruits of false desire
Against the words He spoke.

 

 

In darkness I clutch a created thing
With sense that I’ve, to It, been giv’n
To serve and bow below the earth
Its hollowed eyes ensnare.

It’s curves resemble fish and wood
Alive but dead like birds and bugs
Into their bark we pour our lust
A heavy yoke to bear.

In turning disdain we’re forced to dance
While steps betray our deepest song
A power, which like a puppeteer
Eliminates our worth.

This fruit, which seemed so opportune
Its poison suffocates our life
From crusted arid selfish clay
Turns us against our earth.

 

 

In Darkness I clutch uncreated things
Below the stormy waters where
The grainy cruciform will lead
Enticing me to care

I’m thrust beneath the torrent rains
My selfish self-demise
Where all intended evil there
Is changed by Holy leaven.

How could this fruit bring us such ruin?
Oh, Lord your good salvation bring
Re-darken our faith to return to the place
Where, “On earth as it is now in heaven.”

Back to “Sacred Earth”

Who is the Bride of Christ: Part 3

The image of the church as Christ’s bride contains striking implications.  It smacks of purity, chosen-ness, beloved-ness, togetherness, mutual reverence, and more.

Take for example:

Ephesians 5:31 “Husbands love your wives just as Christ  loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word…This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

With all my newfound responsibilities, the 30 minute devotional was bankrupt for me.  I had to discover a new way.  So, along side my then 3 years working with students in the areas of mercy and justice and global community, I enrolled in an academy for spirituality and encountered the thinking of Father Adrian van Kaam. Father Adrian was set to graduate from his Roman Catholic seminary six months prior to the Nazi occupation of his home in Denmark.  He spent seven long and hungry months sheltering and caring for terrified Christians, Jews, and Atheists from all walks of life.  That experience convinced him that our world needed and would need a practical spirituality that translated across many barriers for the sake of the gospel and rooted in the ancient 2000 year old Christian tradition.

For missionaries to North America and for Community Developers, life is never easy.  They have been called into some of the deepest issues possible.  And in the darkest alleyways they gain the blessed realization that God was there first. He has been working on the toughest issues long before they arrived.  And it is with him there that they find our motivation, the relationship, and the the willingness to go on.  Yet, what happens when they cannot sense him?  What happens when they feel that he has abandoned them? How does a missionary avoid spiritual burnout? How does a Community Developer tap into a holistic spiritual life, rather than simply trying to beef up his or her life of devotions?  How can we tap into the 2000 years of spiritual teaching that widens our view from isolated practices to a whole-life spirituality that leads us back to a quiet time like a thirsty deer to abundant streams?  How can we say “yes” to the bridegroom who is calling his beloved even in the ugliest of moments? That’s what this blog is about.

Who is the Bride of Christ: Part 2

The early Christians, following the lead of Jesus’ parables and through his other teachings, began very early thinking of the church as the bride of Christ.

Take for example:

Revelation 21.9 “Then one of the angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City of Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.”

Like any relationship, like any marriage, intimacy is more than learning about one another. It is about cultivating a life of shared experiences and appreciation for one another in difficult times.   It is no different with God.

Fast-forward three years from my university chapel altar. Still wearing the grad ring, I had now been offered and accepted the wedding ring.   It was perhaps as I was changing a diaper or settling my bank account that reality hit.  I had a wife, a baby, and a real job.  I had taken on an occupation that confronted racism and poverty while preparing students to do just that. It all started to crush me really. The responsibilities of life outweighed a new realization: I could not solve local problems, let alone world issues, with my skills or cleverness. People were too complex.  The human heart was far more stubborn and habit ridden than I realized.  I was more broken that I had realized.  Now ten years out from that night at the university altar, I am saying that it will take my whole life to learn intimacy with God.

Who is the Bride of Christ: Part 1

I began a journey about ten years ago.  It was a spiritual journey that culminated in a quiet moment within my university’s chapel.  I had followed this deep calling in my life that led me to Jesus and to a life devoted to his way and ministry.  I was mastering the spiritual life at break-neck speed.  My devotional life rocked.  I had read through most of the Bible a few times.  And I kind of sneered when my pastor’s wife lamented in one Bible study that it would take her a whole life to learn intimacy with God.  I wondered why I was flying so high.  Perhaps God had greater things in store for me.

So there I was at our university’s chapel altar.  I was kneeling alone late one night. The stained glass windows were dancing with shadows of flickering candles. I was deep in prayer.  On the floor in front of me lay my graduation ring.  A few minutes prior, I had taken it off my finger and set it before the Lord.  Internally I prayed this prayer: Lord let me be married to you.” Somehow over the course of a few years, I had intuited a long-standing Christian image.  Intimacy with the Father was something like a great marriage. It was the height of my early devotional life.  I was on fire.  I loved God and wanted to know him more.

The early Christians, following the lead of Jesus’ parables and through his other teachings, began very early thinking of the church as the bride of Christ.

2 Corinthians 11.1 “I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness.  Yes, please put up with me!  I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him”

Keith’s Big Year

This was a big year for me.

I graduated from the Epiphany Academy of Formative Spirituality.  My wife completed a rigorous year of her master’s work.  And we somehow managed to keep raising a confident (though not altogether sane) 3 year old girl 🙂

It all culminated as I reflected at Palm Beach.  Actually I reflected as I lay on the wave line where the beach and the ocean constantly joust.  It was a spiritual moment.  Who knows what the other beach goers thought about this crazy beached man.  Eyes closed, on my back, sprawled, I lay my head on the wet sand. CRASH!  The wave came over my body.  The water ran away again.  CRASH! Another round.  Ever try this?  It can evoke real fear.  You never know when or how intense the wave will hit.  It was to me it was a grand metaphor of my year.   Taking the brunt of the ocean’s rage, the waves and sand worked together to slowly swallow my body into the earth.  It was a cruciform epiphany. All along, I cringed over the next wrathful wave to crash.

Over the course of a half hour, I slowly learned to enjoy myself.  The waves crashed just as hard, but I began to find joy in the power of the earth and its waters crashing over my legs on my torso and over my shoulders.  A peace and then an abandonment grew in me among the lily foam.

It was an abandonment hard won over 12 months.  An abandonment that helped me lead a group of students to San Diego then Cincinnati for a conference that would thrust us into modern abolition and local justice work.   It was an abandonment that gave me confidence among 13,000 Biblical Scholars in New Orleans.  It was abandonment that encouraged me to apply to PhD even so (I was accepted to 1 of 8 schools that I applied).  It was abandonment that got me through the seminars I directed for 100 pastors in post-January Haiti.  It was abandonment that I learned so acutely about in Pittsburgh finishing Epiphany.  And it was the abandonment among the Florida crest that reminded me to cast my cares to the One who holds us when the pounding waves of adventure, community brokenness, disappointment, and triumph swallow us into the ground.

On Sustainability

(So, now, I will continue my posts on the importance of nature in our world today).

We live in a interesting moment of history.  All across the world, religions are awakening to the sanctity of the earth.  It is a global shift that some are calling the “eco-zoic” era.  I like that.  Post-apocalyptic movies like “The Day the Earth Stood Still” are making a field day with this type of thought: The earth can and will sustain herself beyond our mess…whether humans remain a viable species is the question.  Will mother earth wipe out us children because of the way we treat her?

Unfortunately for Christians, we often have a sense that this earth will burn, so why take care of it? By the way, that is a mark of modern Christianity.  The earth in the eyes of the early and Medieval Church was viewed far more as a sacred source of life.  Ever read “Canticle of Brother Sun”?

So the question now is this: can we turn ship?  What will it take to get masses of people to stop trashing the soil and destroying the oceans? There has to be a way.

So let me suggest this: it is not about a change of mind, it is about a change of heart.  This is where vibrant faith steps in. The green movement has already changed our minds in North America. What we need now is a life change. It is the change of a thousands of small decisions on the part of millions of people.  It is a change that everyone must be able to make.  A sustainable lifestyle for millions will only spring from a deep reverence for the earth and for all who live upon it.  It must not be based in guilt or fear but love. It can be based in Christian scripture, and we can find the way in Jesus’ heart.  This must be the core of our curriculum, not another top ten list of things to do to save the earth.

A good place to start: go spend some time with a few good friends in a park…