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November 1, 2009
Seton Northwest Hospital
11113 Research Blvd.
Austin, Texas 78759 view map

A few days ago, I shared how I came to find myself ready to experience the walking mediation of a labyrinth (see Labyrinth Meditation).  I will try to give you some sense of the experience.   I share this with some trepidation. Keep in mind, dear reader, this is my experience so it may seem strange in the light before you.  I hope you won’t consider me a loon!? Whoops – too late.   Ah, well, if I have to be a fool, I will be a fool for Christ.  Of course, it may be some of my brothers and sisters in Christ – the fundamental, the pious, the moral; a few good men, that might think I’ve gone AWOL and immediately dispatch the MPs (Ministerial Pharisees) to drag me back to the pew.  Fear not friends, I haven’t gone all nuclear or even new age – I’m merely experiencing a new expression of communion with Christ, the holy Son of God.

When researching labyrinths in preparation for the visit, one suggestion I uncovered was to traverse the trail meditating on a specific word – something like forgiveness, peace, worship.  You want to make sure you eat before you arrive so your word isn’t “hamburger”.  Of course if you eat and drink first, you should take care of all the associated post processing so your word doesn’t become a bodily function.  It’s exceptionally hard to walk a labyrinth with your legs crossed and it makes you want to hurry which defeats the point.

All kidding aside, I found myself at the mouth of the labyrinth considering which word I would digest during this contemplative feast.  I had barely opened the menu in my mind to survey my options when the smorgasbord that is the word RENEWAL was served up to me.  There has been so much going on in my life and renewal was needed in every department and compartment.  But the word was as accurate in the macro-economics of my life as it was in the day-to-day.  As I stand, precariously on the pivot point to the see-saw of my life looking at the plank that got me here leading back to the ground and the plank ahead of me stretching upward to the heavens, renewal is the one thing needful.  What got me here cannot take me there – further up and further in – Christ, renew me.  I implored the Lord to meet me in this place at this time. Then, like a child anxious to ride the big-kid rollercoaster despite fluttering trepidation of heart, I stepped into the labyrinth.

I felt a bit awkward at first, like a child wobbling along on its bike just after its father removed the training wheels.  But I expected this, so I embraced it (then strangled it and left it gasping for air on an early, outer circuit).  One of the brilliant things about the labyrinth is you have enough rings in your path that you can afford one or two just to get your head in the right place – to empty your cup of all the junk our busy world has served up so you can receive fresh, cool water.  In fact, that is the very point, to lay aside all the noise of the world for a few minutes so we you hear the voice of the heart and the eternal.

photo Because the labyrinth I chose featured beautiful trees amongst the path, I found myself running my hands across their trunks as I passed by.  It was an incongruent experience; attempting to gently caress the contours of their form as a man might caress the face of his beloved or or woman might touch the cheeks of her grandchild, only to be met with the rough, scratchy, unyielding texture of the bark.  Even so, it seemed correct so as I continued the course, the practice progressed from this timid touch to a daring dance, a do-si-do circling around and in between my various oaken tango partners.  It reminded me of Lucy’s midnight dance with and through the trees to rest with the lion, Aslan in Prince Caspian. I deeply love these stories in the Chronicles or Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  The Lord has spoken to me many times as I read and reread these stories to my children.   I thought, “Just like Lucy, these trees and this labyrinth are waltzing me to the center to meet my love and Lord, Jesus.  It was then that I slid out of the moment, the way you might encounter a temporary reprieve from the drama of a movie or play for a detached thought, and I became aware that I was indeed sliding into renewal. And with that revelation of heart, I ceased to think about it and yielded fully to this ballet of the labyrinth.

About half way through the labyrinth, I came across a fallen branch from from one of the trees and picked it up.  It looked a lot like a dowsing rod, the type used to divine the location of water.  A flood of ideas poured into my head about this.  First, I considered how the labyrinth with it’s unicursal path was a type of dowser experience – the path in and out, the participant’s part, like the two forks held by the dowser while the purpose of touching the spiritual, God’s part, was like the outstretched arm in its effort to find water, and water, of course, is a symbol for the spirit. But for me, the experience drilled deeper than the near-surface layers of these general observations.  

When my parents were divorced from each other and married to other people, my mother and step-father ran a business called Dowser Consulting so this idea of dowsing is intrinsically tied together with some of my deepest heart experiences.  It would be impossible to share with you here the myriad and depth of emotion and thought interwoven in the fabric of this part of my life.  Still, it is distant in the day-to-day of my life. My parents are no longer married to others. In fact, they have been married to each other again now for more years than they were apart.  Generally, I don’t often think about my parent’s 15-year long marital detour or how it impacts me.  There were extremely positive and extremely difficult aspects of that chapter of my life which I now fully embrace as an essential part of the fabric of who I am and for which I am thankful to God. However, holding this fallen dowsing gift from God in my hand, a flood of deep, resident joy and grief exploded from it into my hands and through-out my heart and soul. I wondered if that was akin to the dowser’s sensitive touch, but mostly I felt deep reserves of emotion that connected with much of my current experience in a way that was clearly significant if not outright electrifying and shocking. I thought of a poem I wrote once called Point of Rest, that included the verse, “

Yet pure the silver water flows
Where the patient surgeon waits for those
Ready to trust his steady hand
To cut out the stone beneath the brand

Here I was finding the pure silver water in this labyrinthine dowsing rod of renewal and the surgeon was quick to touch me and cut out this stone beneath this scar tissue on my soul.   It was most unexpected. I simply was unaware that there was any more work needed in this area of my soul, but I could not deny the raw, tenderness of this wound now that my Lord was probing it and healing it in new ways.  This was clearly renewal. 

I continued to the center amazed with this encounter as God guided me into renewal, but I will share the rest of this experience in the next post.

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November 1, 2009
Seton Northwest Hospital
11113 Research Blvd.
Austin, Texas 78759 view map

A few days ago, I shared how I came to find myself ready to experience the walking mediation of a labyrinth (see Labyrinth Meditation).  I will try to give you some sense of the experience.   I share this with some trepidation. Keep in mind, dear reader, this is my experience so it may seem strange in the light before you.  I hope you won’t consider me a loon!? Whoops – too late.   Ah, well, if I have to be a fool, I will be a fool for Christ.  Of course, it may be some of my brothers and sisters in Christ – the fundamental, the pious, the moral; a few good men, that might think I’ve gone AWOL and immediately dispatch the MPs (Ministerial Pharisees) to drag me back to the pew.  Fear not friends, I haven’t gone all nuclear or even new age – I’m merely experiencing a new expression of communion with Christ, the holy Son of God.

When researching labyrinths in preparation for the visit, one suggestion I uncovered was to traverse the trail meditating on a specific word – something like forgiveness, peace, worship.  You want to make sure you eat before you arrive so your word isn’t “hamburger”.  Of course if you eat and drink first, you should take care of all the associated post processing so your word doesn’t become a bodily function.  It’s exceptionally hard to walk a labyrinth with your legs crossed and it makes you want to hurry which defeats the point.

All kidding aside, I found myself at the mouth of the labyrinth considering which word I would digest during this contemplative feast.  I had barely opened the menu in my mind to survey my options when the smorgasbord that is the word RENEWAL was served up to me.  There has been so much going on in my life and renewal was needed in every department and compartment.  But the word was as accurate in the macro-economics of my life as it was in the day-to-day.  As I stand, precariously on the pivot point to the see-saw of my life looking at the plank that got me here leading back to the ground and the plank ahead of me stretching upward to the heavens, renewal is the one thing needful.  What got me here cannot take me there – further up and further in – Christ, renew me.  I implored the Lord to meet me in this place at this time. Then, like a child anxious to ride the big-kid rollercoaster despite fluttering trepidation of heart, I stepped into the labyrinth.

I felt a bit awkward at first, like a child wobbling along on its bike just after its father removed the training wheels.  But I expected this, so I embraced it (then strangled it and left it gasping for air on an early, outer circuit).  One of the brilliant things about the labyrinth is you have enough rings in your path that you can afford one or two just to get your head in the right place – to empty your cup of all the junk our busy world has served up so you can receive fresh, cool water.  In fact, that is the very point, to lay aside all the noise of the world for a few minutes so we you hear the voice of the heart and the eternal.

photo Because the labyrinth I chose featured beautiful trees amongst the path, I found myself running my hands across their trunks as I passed by.  It was an incongruent experience; attempting to gently caress the contours of their form as a man might caress the face of his beloved or or woman might touch the cheeks of her grandchild, only to be met with the rough, scratchy, unyielding texture of the bark.  Even so, it seemed correct so as I continued the course, the practice progressed from this timid touch to a daring dance, a do-si-do circling around and in between my various oaken tango partners.  It reminded me of Lucy’s midnight dance with and through the trees to rest with the lion, Aslan in Prince Caspian. I deeply love these stories in the Chronicles or Narnia by C.S. Lewis.  The Lord has spoken to me many times as I read and reread these stories to my children.   I thought, “Just like Lucy, these trees and this labyrinth are waltzing me to the center to meet my love and Lord, Jesus.  It was then that I slid out of the moment, the way you might encounter a temporary reprieve from the drama of a movie or play for a detached thought, and I became aware that I was indeed sliding into renewal. And with that revelation of heart, I ceased to think about it and yielded fully to this ballet of the labyrinth.

About half way through the labyrinth, I came across a fallen branch from from one of the trees and picked it up.  It looked a lot like a dowsing rod, the type used to divine the location of water.  A flood of ideas poured into my head about this.  First, I considered how the labyrinth with it’s unicursal path was a type of dowser experience – the path in and out, the participant’s part, like the two forks held by the dowser while the purpose of touching the spiritual, God’s part, was like the outstretched arm in its effort to find water, and water, of course, is a symbol for the spirit. But for me, the experience drilled deeper than the near-surface layers of these general observations.  

When my parents were divorced from each other and married to other people, my mother and step-father ran a business called Dowser Consulting so this idea of dowsing is intrinsically tied together with some of my deepest heart experiences.  It would be impossible to share with you here the myriad and depth of emotion and thought interwoven in the fabric of this part of my life.  Still, it is distant in the day-to-day of my life. My parents are no longer married to others. In fact, they have been married to each other again now for more years than they were apart.  Generally, I don’t often think about my parent’s 15-year long marital detour or how it impacts me.  There were extremely positive and extremely difficult aspects of that chapter of my life which I now fully embrace as an essential part of the fabric of who I am and for which I am thankful to God. However, holding this fallen dowsing gift from God in my hand, a flood of deep, resident joy and grief exploded from it into my hands and through-out my heart and soul. I wondered if that was akin to the dowser’s sensitive touch, but mostly I felt deep reserves of emotion that connected with much of my current experience in a way that was clearly significant if not outright electrifying and shocking. I thought of a poem I wrote once called Point of Rest, that included the verse, “

Yet pure the silver water flows
Where the patient surgeon waits for those
Ready to trust his steady hand
To cut out the stone beneath the brand

Here I was finding the pure silver water in this labyrinthine dowsing rod of renewal and the surgeon was quick to touch me and cut out this stone beneath this scar tissue on my soul.   It was most unexpected. I simply was unaware that there was any more work needed in this area of my soul, but I could not deny the raw, tenderness of this wound now that my Lord was probing it and healing it in new ways.  This was clearly renewal. 

I continued to the cent
er amazed with this encounter as God guided me into renewal, but I will share the rest of this experience in the next post.

Tags: , , , ,

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey illustrates the secret of doing first (important) things first by putting big rocks into a jar first followed by smaller rocks then pebbles and finally sand. You cannot add the big important rocks on a life filled densely with sand.

Still, there are many day-to-day activities that can be added in while the sands of time are pouring your day away. Being prepared to leverage that time can help you maximize your effort and avoid the frustration that can occur when you feel like you are wasting your time. Waiting for a friend at the coffee house, or for your doctor to call you from the waiting room or in a line at the grocery store is a perfect time to check or update your list, sequence your next step or think about the challenges you need to work with next. You can often to this in your head but you can usually find paper and pen if you need to make notes.

If you have technology such as the iPhone at your disposal, you can do even more: call and setup that appointment or make it via their webpage form, reply to that email you haven’t had time for, find and order that birthday present and so much more. The iPhone is a great tool that can crystallize all the tasks that keep getting lost between the rocks and ever blowing sand of time. The only trick is to use it effectively and not let it fill your time with more sand.

One last note: driving is not sand time.

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I love integration – taking different things and making them work together. So I just setup Facebook a few days ago which is a cool ways to connect with your friends – even integrate some of your interests – happenings, etc. Now, I find that I can integrate my “Viewed Mercies” blog. Very cool.

In my experience, God is always doing this in my life – taking skills, experiences, and relationships that developed in one context and integrating them together in new and exciting ways.

For instance, in 2008, God took various relationships with friends from work, boy scouting, church and well as skills from FPU training, work, etc. to integrate into helping radically impact a struggling family – what’s more, is a whole bunch of other things are beginning to be integrated together from that experience. It is miraculous and exhilerating.

So, what will he re-create and integrate in 2009. On facebook, I have reconnected with some long lost friends, I have connected some interesting people with interesting ideas – including some of my own that have been waiting in the wings. All this in a few days leading up to New Years Eve. I pray God blesses you all with eyes wide open to the awesome purpose and journey of your life in 2009. I’d love to hear from you on what he shows you and does with your wonderful lives.

I came across a quote today by one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis:

In the midst of a world of light and love, of song and feast and dance, [Lucifer] could find nothing to think of more interesting than his own prestige.

Wow!  I hope we are not the same but I suspect we often are.  We are so caught up in ourselves that we miss everything going on around us – the infinite amount of gifts God bestows upon us.  While we are rarely aware of it, every single unconscious breath is a gift.  While we usually don’t notice, our brain is continually deciphering between 50,000 distinct cataloged smells.  While we barely think about it, the human hand performs thousands of intricate movements without us directly telling it to do so and with no conscious thought.

And surrounding these fabulous luxuries and all the others inherent in our bodies are all the gifts of creation at our disposal – an endless adventure of the senses and the spirit which we mostly ignore while we’re camped out in the AC in front of the TV watching ET or some other mind-numbing, life-sucking fictional/barbiturate IV.  Not saying that this is all bad but the excessiveness of it and the distraction of it away from that which really matters and the many other life-giving pursuits is fabulously ungrateful and mindless in response to what we’ve been given.  Clearly, we live in a culture where we live mostly lives of privilege, and think of most of our privileges as rights.

But I’m not really writing about us or Lucifer.  What I’m enthralled about is that despite Lucifer and his deception, despite our fallen state, and despite the world and its foolish misappropriation of creations gifts — God has provided it with an extravagance that is overwhelming when we get past our selves long enough to consider it.  What an amazing, loving Father!!!

On the surface, it is hard to say that God is wasteful.  It seems wrong.  But there is a certain sense where this seems obvious too.  That he would give up His son Jesus for the chance of the hearts of those who called themselves his enemies is an economy hard for us to comprehend.

I once shared a story about a man who chose between saving the life of his son who knew Christ or that of a friend of the son who did not.  It was an emotional story about how a Godly man might choose to go after the lost even at great personal cost.  The person I shared it with rejected the story commenting about how he could not get over the foolishness of such an economy. 

Perhaps this is why there are references in the Bible to the wisdom of God seems foolish to men 1 Cor 1:18 – though in reality, the foolishness of God is wiser than our wisdom 1 Cor 1:25 and the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God 1 Cor 3:19.

But even if God considers it necessary and worthwhile to send His son to die for us to redeem us and to overcome death (which can seem so foolishly wasteful to us), was it necessary to give us a billion stars at night, and massive oceans repeatedly pounding waves on the shore, hummingbirds, thousands of different types of flowers and plants and animals, the ability to imagine and create, endless different variations in the appearance of sunrise, sunset and the moon?  Do we really need to be able to distinguish 50,000 different smells? 

He has lavished us with so much more abundance than we can ever use of even be aware of.  We could easily fill several life times just trying to learn all that we could be thankful to Him for and still be less than 1% aware.  All of mankind’s story on earth and all of his learning, yet we still is seeing him in a dim and dark mirror.  It is hard to not see his abundance as wasteful from this perspective.

Yet with all this before us – we still miss God.  Another quote of Lewis from The Weight of Glory spells out the reality:

“If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desire, not too strong, but too weak
We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

Perhaps God does need all these methods — all this wastefulness — just to get through to those he loves.  It is like the way a young man is "wasteful" in wooing the woman he loves, pouring out all sorts of praise and gifts upon her.  Perhaps, God’s "wastefulness" only seems that way to us because we don’t like His girlfriend so much – the way a parent or friends of the young man will council him, "she’s not worth it".  Of course, if the young man loves the girl, none of these brutish admonishments mean anything.   So this too should be an encouraging gift to us – God clearly loves us because we ourselves can argue "we are not worth it" and yet, Christ is fully committed to his bride.

In reading A.W. Tozer’s The Knowledge of the Holy, and looking at God’s attributes and considering specifically the attribute of "faithfulness", we can see that all God’s attributes are true at all time – this is what His attribute of faithfulness means.  So God is faithful to us at all times, even when we are not faithful to him.  And this is not because of who we are, but because of who He is. And He is faithful!  But he is not just faithful to us – that might be easy since we are so happy with mud pies.  He is faithful to Himself.  Since that level of faithfulness is infinitely above what we need, His faithfulness to us is more than secure – it is part of who He is, for his sake, for his glory Is 48:11

God’s wastefulness is only wastefulness in the economy of men who are too foolish to see that the wastefulness is all part of God’s glory and he is showing it to us “24/7/365/a life time” because that’s who He is. Because of who He is, he longs to know us and bless us, simply because He loves us – even if we do not love him.   If we’re appalled by that wastefulness, there is but one solution, accept Him!  Then, in view of all these mercies, gifts, and lavish, abundant wastefulness of the lover-king toward his beloved, give him all of yourself daily and forever since you know that without doing so, your life would be truly wasted.

Lately, I’ve been reading Pray All Ways by Edward M. Hayes who shares dozens of ways to have a rich fellowship with our Father through every aspect of our lives – a way to recognize and give ourselves to him in all the day-to-day gifts He gives us.  I highly recommend it as well as The Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer.    Also, a beautiful representation of the love of God toward us – in the context to the difficulties and tragedies of life can be found in The Shack by Paul Young – here is a cool blog and video with the author:

·         http://catalystroadtrip.com/2008/03/27/the-wastefulness-of-grace-paul-young-ernie-johnson/

That book ends with a great quote with I will end this post with it:

Earth’s crammed with heaven,

And every common bush afire with God,

But only he who sees takes off his shoes;

The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

        – Elizabeth Barrett Browning

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Long before we reconcile with our Father in heaven, he is leading us to that eventuality.   In fact, the Bible says, “God commends his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”   There are many things that I can point to that made me long to rush into his arms while I was still too prideful and selfish to admit the desire.  One was clearly the song, “Why Me Lord” by Kris Kristofferson.    Kris turns 72 today (on June 22nd) and I really appreciate his role in my journey even though I’ve never met him.  I looked him up and he recently released a new CD called “This Old Road” which is appropriate.  I definitely plan on buying it.  You can check on the video of the title song here:  http://newwestrecords.com/kris/vid/

In case you don’t know the answer to Why Me?  God tells us that answer in his word.  It is because he loves us as I mentioned above.  And if you say but why does he love us?  it is because God is Love and for his own sake, to express who he is faithfully – he loves us even when we do not love him.  Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 48:11  But it is so much better when we do, because then the love of Christ compels us and the freedom of Christ empowers us to live in love with our Father in heaven and his children here on earth.  Thanks again, Kris, for helping me along the way when I was lost.  Happy birthday and congrats on the new album. 

Why Me Lord

Written by Kris Kristofferson
Published by Resaca Music

A     E    B7   E    E7   B7                        
              E                A  
Why me Lord, what have I ever done
                 E 
To deserve even one
                       B7  
Of the pleasures I’ve known
               E               A
Tell me Lord, what did I ever do
                          E 
That was worth love from you
        B7              E        E7
Or the kindness you’ve shown.  

|A                                   
|Lord help me Jesus, I’ve wasted it so
|        B7                  E    E7
|Help me Jesus I know what I am  
|A                         E           
|Now that I know that I’ve needed you so
|        B7                       E   
|Help me Jesus, my soul’s in your hand.

Tell me Lord, if you think there’s a way
I can try to repay
All I’ve taken from you
Maybe Lord, I can show someone else
What I’ve been through myself
On my way back to you.

|Lord help me Jesus, I’ve wasted it so
|Help me Jesus I know what I am
|Now that I know that I’ve need you so
|        B7                       A        E
|Help me Jesus, my soul’s in your hands.

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Just finished reading, The Shack by William Young – highly, highly recommend you get a copy and read it.  An amazing and beautiful story and portrayal of the reality of God’s love in pursuing us.

http://theshackbook.com/

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