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Friday, March 31, 2017

Stoplight Song


As I came to a stoplight, I happened to glance over at the driver in the car next to mine and discovered that he was playing an oboe. Since his window was rolled up, as was my own, I could not hear whatever song he was playing. Was it something classical? A piece by Bach or Mozart?

Was he playing jazz? It's uncommon for jazz to have any pieces for oboe, but perhaps he was playing the oboe section from "Sketches From Spain" by Gil Evans and Miles Davis.

Or maybe he was performing one of my favorite pieces from cinema: Ennio Morricone's "Gabriel's Oboe" from a movie I love, The Mission? As soon as I considered this, I began to hear its haunting and plaintive melody in my head. It was a song that is both beautiful and tinged with sadness.

I don't know what song choice he made, only that he chose, in that moment, to play.

Was he simply playing for himself and his own enjoyment?

Perhaps he was playing for God?

That I cannot say, either. I can only say that it gave me joy to get a brief glimpse of this man playing at a stoplight before it changed to green.

Playing that oboe for such a short momentary span of time, filled some deeper need in him. It was an act of creating beauty - brief, ephemeral beauty. To change breath into the notes of a song is no less a miracle than the very breath of God that gave man life and breath to live and play music.

Ruach.  Breath. Spirit.

That moment was a sacred one, even if he did not believe in a God or Spirit. All acts of creation, of beauty, are a reaching out to the eternal, to something beyond ourselves. He could simply have chosen to look at social media or even text on his smart phone. Or he could have merely listened to music on his radio. But he didn't. Something within himself needed to play music - to actively participate and create. This was not an act of escape or distraction but a deeply spiritual need to be present, to create, to offer up this song no less than a congregation does in church on Sunday.

How did that brief moment, that simple act of playing an instrument change his day? Even though I never heard a single note, his playing changed mine. It made me think of something the great German composer Johann Sebastian Bach wrote, "The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul."

That man took the ordinariness of sitting at a traffic light and transformed it into something extraordinary and wonderful.  Whether he meant to or not, he reminded me that there's a God who not only lovingly created us but delights in our joining Him in the act of creation. I couldn't help wonder how different the world would be if all of us, at some time, choose not the obvious reaction to a situation but a sacred one: to create something of beauty. To suddenly sing for no other reason than to sing because there's a song in you that needs to be sung. Or to dance, like a child twirling in the grass, for the sheer joy of the movement. Or to play an instrument. Or to paint or draw or cook. Those are all forms of worship that we offer up, not only on the altar before our Creator, but for anyone who happens to be there in the moment. It does not matter if we have talent or grace or skills. It only matters that we create. That we use the spaces we exist in to change the world in a small, momentary way, for ourselves and others by revolting against the harshness, the chaos, and the loneliness that exists in this world by a simple act of creation. 


Certainly, I cannot help but think of my favorite painter, Vincent Van Gogh, who, even while he was in the sanitarium, managed to find deep and lasting beauty in the world around him despite his suffering. "Art," he wrote to his brother Theo, "is to console those who are broken by life." Here is a truly great artist, who in his suffering, is creating in order to be a balm to others who are suffering. Is that not a more Christ-like act of generosity and healing?  Is it not one that we, each of us, could undertake in some small way in the lives of those around us? 

All it takes is the courage to try, to fail sometimes, but, even in our failures, to transform the moment into something holy and pure. All that is required is that whatever we do, that it be done in love. Any act, no matter how small, when done in love, is an eternal one with significance that lasts longer than we could ever imagine. Who knows how we might transform the day of someone who has lost hope, who feels alone, who feels emptiness, feels suffering and that there is nothing of beauty in this world anymore. 

To create, not matter how imperfectly, is an attempt to create wholeness. Another word for wholeness is shalom. When we offer others the acts of our creation,we are, in a sense, offering them peace, offering them glimpses of grace. We are showing them that, this life is about more than mere endurance, it is about eternity, about the endless and everlasting wonder of a God who creates all things and declares it, "Very good!" Any act of creation is merely a marker, a sign, pointing to an infinite love that is without boundaries or conditions. When anyone creates, it is offering the reminder to each person that they, themselves, are fearfully and wonderfully made. They are beloved acts of creative beauty in and of themselves.

Let us go out then and create that we might glorify our Creator and offer hope to the hopeless, beauty to the broken, and loveliness to the lonely. 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Distance


Months ago, I reread, studied and meditated on the book of Genesis. Like so much of scripture the stories in Genesis are so familiar that they that the sharp edges are blurred and blunted, smoothed over by our not coming to these passages with open eyes and an open heart to what the text can reveal to us anew.  

"They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden."

God had created man and woman in his image. He gave them a purpose (communion with Him) and a vocation (tending the garden). Yet, in this passage, God is walking through this garden and I imagine Him as sorrowful as when He enters another garden (Gethsemane) to pray, "If it be thy will." This garden, where once the Lord could walk and talk with his creation, He knows that they have hidden from Him, fear Him, they don't want to be near Him. God understands this and he calls to them, "Where are you?"

What struck me in reading this is that it's one of the most tragic and sorrow-filled questions in all of history. The Lord God asks, "Where are you?" This question revealed that God's heart was heavy because the very reason He created humanity (communion with Him) was now broken. The question, "Where are you?" is a question of distance, of proximity. God is asking man, "Where are you in relation to Me?" And I believe that God asks us that question daily as well.

Like a disobedient child with his parent, Adam replies, "I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid . . ."  That must have pierced God's heart. I heard you and didn't want to be with you. I did not want to be in your very presence. 

Creation is a loving act. God created, called it "good" seven times and from Adam and Eve on to the Tower of Babel,  man would sin seven separate sins as if to negate the goodness God had proclaimed. 

In this moment of hiding, neither Adam nor Eve see their Creator as loving and they knew that He had warned them, "but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die." They expected death. Yet, even in that moment, this broken-hearted Abba, still longed for His creation to see themselves as His beloved children. Part of that very death was humanities loss of their identity in God. They lost that core understanding that they were created "good" and that they were always in the very presence of God. With sin came a loss of awareness that we carry with us even today. We are always in the presence of God but we are seldom in the awareness of that presence. God has not distanced Himself from us, like Adam and Eve, we continue to distance ourselves from Him. 

Thomas Merton wrote, "Just remaining quietly in the presence of God, listening to Him, being attentive to Him, requires a lot of courage and know-how." 

That is brokenness. What we were created for (being in God's presence and communing with Him) is now an act we have to strive and work towards. It does not come naturally, as our nature is now self-focused and we prefer our noise and distractions to returning to the holy presence of our Creator. 

When God calls to me with the question, "Where are you?"

How will I answer? 

What are the distractions or diversions or daily habits that are keeping me from this fellowship?

Why am I hiding and what am I hiding?

How often is it not sin but schedule that keeps me from spending time with my Creator?  Does my soul really pant for God, as is written in Psalm 42?  If I'm honest, not really, Not as much as it might for a new car or a vacation or even to just plop myself on the couch to binge watch something on Netflix or Amazon Prime (as I've been doing with the show In Treatment).  

We are not distant from what we desire. 

This brings me back to one of my all-time favorite quotes, in her book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard writes, "How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives."

How do I spend my days?

The holy is found in the daily. The sacred is found in the small moments. 

It's funny but when I posted that to Facebook and tweeted it, I attached a photo of a nature path I had walked recently. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that isn't accurate. If I truly want to be accurate about those two statements, then this photo applies:


It is much easier to spend time with God in nature, amidst the beauty of His creation, but not so much when there is a pile of dirty dishes in the sink that need to be washed. Yet, how much more often am I at that sink than I am on that nature trail? 

In his book Practicing the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence, who spent most of his life in the kitchen of a priory, wrote this:

He (God) does not ask much of us, merely a thought of  Him from time to time,
a little act of adoration, sometimes to ask for His grace, sometimes to offer
Him your sufferings, at other times to thank Him for the graces, past and
present, He has bestowed on you, in the midst of your troubles to take solace
in Him as often as you can. Lift up your heart to Him during your meals and
in company; the least little remembrance will always be the most pleasing
to Him. One need not cry out very loudly; He is nearer to us than we think.

Do we think that way when we are working in our kitchens? Washing and drying and putting away dishes. Or in preparing meals. Or in sweeping or mopping the floors? 

These small acts, this creating holy habits, is a way of establishing ourselves to a sense of God's presence within the mundane, everyday routines that we have already established. 

In her beautiful book Liturgy of the Ordinary, Tish Harrison Warren writes, "The small bits of our days are profoundly meaningful because they are the site of our worship. The crucible of our formation is in the monotony of our daily routines."

But do we see them in this light? Do we see even our most tedious of tasks (cleaning the bathrooms) as sites of our worship? Or do we, like Adam and Eve, continue to withdraw from God in doing the simple, ordinary tasks of our day? In our workplace as we enter numbers in an Excel spreadsheet? Or in grocery shopping? In the school car line as we are dropping off or picking up our children? In folding and putting away laundry that seems to never end? In driving in rush hour traffic to or from work? 

Where is it and what is it that we are doing that is drawing us away from a God who longs for relationship and fellowship with us? 

And I will not rest in my true identity as a beloved child of God if I don't spend time with Him.

How can I make time throughout my day, wherever I am, in whatever I'm doing? This is the question I must ask myself continually. 







Wednesday, March 29, 2017

40 Days Journal: Wednesday From The Ashes

When I was very young, we went to a traditional Presbyterian church that practiced the church calendar and incorporated some liturgy into the Sunday service. After my family left there, we ended up in charismatic and Pentecostal churches, as well as the Church of God: all of which do not follow the church calendar and have only kept communion in their services. In those churches, I heard how liturgy was something that was rote and how we were to be led by the Spirit and that there was freedom in not following a liturgical service week after week after week. Yet, the older I get, the more I desperately long for liturgy. I pray the daily offices. I practice silence and contemplation. I even bought a copy of the Book of Common Prayer at a library book sale, which I often use and has helped me to pray when I did not want to or could not find the words to pray.


It was Ash Wednesday. 

This desperate longing made me want to be part of an Ash Wednesday service, something the church we attend now does not do. 

Certainly it made sense to me now, as I was undertaking this forty days in the wilderness, to take part in an Ash Wednesday service. It was the first day of Lent, after all, when followers of Christ around the world remember Christ being led into the desert where he fasted and prayed forty days. Lent is a time of prayer, fasting and repentance (just as my forty days would become). 

I had been spending time in this wilderness: studying the gospels' accounts of Jesus in the desert, reflecting on and meditating on these passages as part of a practice called Lectio Divina. For those who are unfamiliar with this, Lectio Divina is a way to slow down, contemplate and pray the scriptures. One not only lets the text shape and form oneself, but one brings more of oneself to the text itself because one finds the God who enters into biblical events entering into our own personal histories.  When I read the Bible this way, I don't rush through the words, but read it slowly, listening to the Spirit to teach me in the silence. It can truly be transformational.

Yet, around the time of Ash Wednesday, I felt like a desert. My mouth was dry and my prayers tasted like sand and ashes on my tongue. They were prayers I forced myself to pray when I didn't feel like praying at all. Opening my Bible that morning, I found myself reading from Psalm 62, "For God alone my soul waits in silence; for him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken."

This made me think of how Eugene Peterson translated the first verse of Psalm 65, "Silence is praise to you."

How many churches actually believe and practice silence that way?

So I am silent. I will wait in silence. And I look out the window at a sky the color of ashes. 

My day started in silence, but as it so often happens when we go about our busy days, it did not stay that way. I was driving between stores that I call on and was approaching a green light when, all of a sudden, a young woman pulled out from a side street in front of me and, though I hit my brakes immediately, my car hit the rear of her van.  The day was overcast and chilly. I stood there in the median with this young woman, as we waited for the police to arrive. The coolness of the morning was accentuated by the rushing of cars past us. I found myself asking, "Where is God in this circumstance?" 

The answer?

I was there to reflect God to this young woman who was terrified because this wasn't her first accident (she had totaled her own car just a few hundred feet from this accident) and she was driving her father's van. So instead of allowing myself to feel stressed or overwhelmed or angry or upset, I remained calm to calm her. I spoke words of peace and comfort. "Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart," I thought of the verse from Colossians, "and be thankful." 

Yet, after the accident, I wondered if I still wanted to go to the Ash Wednesday service that night at a nearby Episcopal Church. To be honest, I didn't want to. Yet, I could not dismiss going, because the Spirit deep inside me told me that I needed to go. As the time drew near to go that night, the ash gray sky had turned a dark, coal black. It was ominously warning of an approaching and, possibly, violent storm. Maybe I shouldn't go, I thought, maybe I should just forget the service and stay home. My wife and the Holy Spirit urged me to go.

If the weather had been nicer, I would have simply walked the few blocks from our home to the church itself, but the weather forced me to drive the short distance. When I arrived at the church it was dark and the parking lot had few cars in it. Had the service been cancelled? What I didn't take into account is that most people don't tend to visit a church during an Ash Wednesday service at night. I considered heading back home, but I didn't. I parked my car and headed for the side door where I saw light. My plan was to sneak into the church, find a pew in the back, which would make my escape  at the end of the service painless and easy with very little interaction with anyone. God seldom allows such plans to be and He did not this night, either. As I opened the door, I was first greeted by an older woman who introduced herself and welcomed me. She then introduced me to the Deacon.

The Deacon was a beautiful African-American woman whose smile and manner put me immediately at ease because there was a joy and a light that welcomed anyone. Her warm manner encouraged conversation and I discovered that she had been a Baptist herself. We laughed at how we were both Baptists, but not Baptists. Like myself, she had always been a questioner. Our talk turned to questioning and how it's okay to do so and not have to have answers to them and to not fully understand God because we cannot or else it is not really God. We spoke of how many churches were afraid of this, to admit this and were unwelcoming of its congregations and its pastors questions, doubts and struggles. I hated for our conversation to end, as it was the first time in my forty-eight years that I had ever had such a dialogue with a member of the clergy and found connection and the ability to hold this kind of thinking as important part of one's spiritual process and formation. It was much needed and refreshing to not only openly discuss Divine Mystery but to have a member of the clergy welcome and embrace this; in fact, she told me that she had just preached a sermon this past Sunday on the topic. Oh how I had wished I had been there to have heard it. Perhaps the Pentecostal part of me would have stood up and shouted, "Amen! Preach!"

I was shown into the sanctuary and, as I entered, I was greeted not by noise but by silence. There were a few others already there, scattered about, and I slipped into a pew near the back and became still. It was glorious not to be inundated by noise, even if it is praise music playing or people socializing. Instead, there was reflection and meditation. It reminded me of a line from one of my favorite books, Christian Wiman's My Bright Abyss, where he writes, "Silence is the language of faith."

Before beginning my own meditative communion with God, I took in the beauty of the sanctuary. My eyes were first drawn to the gorgeous wooden block carvings that were hung all along the walls with their depictions of Christ (in the wilderness and the events of Lent leading up to Easter). Then I looked at the altar where the golden crosses were draped in sheer purple fabric. Behind the altar was the passage from Mark 1:9-10:

Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized
of John in Jordan. And straightway coming out of the
water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit
like a dove descending upon him,; and there came
a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved
Son, in whom I am well pleased. 

The very words Christ hears from his Abba before the Spirit thrusts him into the wilderness for forty days.

The service began with a silent processional of the clergy walking up the center aisle to the altar.

Once the service began, it was intimidating because it was unfamiliar. I was out of my religious routine and was the stranger in the midst since I was the only one there who wasn't a member. And because there were only eighteen people there, I definitely stood out. Unlike everyone else, I didn't know what to say or when to say it. Nor did I know the hymns they sang, so I very, very softly tried to worship with them without being heard by anyone around me so they couldn't hear my slip ups. the Lectors read passages from Joel 2, Psalm 103 and 2nd Corinthians. Then the rector took to the pulpit for his sermon. 

This was followed by the bidding and the Blessing of the Ashes. Along with the other celebrants, I walked down front (though I did not dip my finger in the holy water and make the sign of the cross because I wasn't sure how one did it properly) but I knelt at the altar as the Rector moved down the row of people, made a cross from the ashes on each person's forehead and reminded us, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." It was a beautiful expression of grief and hope, death and life that belongs in celebrating Lent, the death and resurrection of Christ. After he had done this to each person, he told us, "Go in peace." So we rose, I wiped a tear from my eye, and returned to our pews. 

After an offertory and a hymn came the liturgy of the table, the Eucharist. This is one of the liturgies that I most long for and need to celebrate on a continual basis. That from brokenness comes beauty, comes redemption and new life. Once more, I joined the celebrants to kneel at the altar. I held out my hands to receive the host (a thin bread wafer) that the Deacon placed in my hands. Then the chalice bearer came and offered each celebrant a chalice of wine to sip from. How different this was from every other communion I had ever taken part in where a silver tray of thin wafers and of small plastic cups of grape juice are passed down the rows. There was something humbling and purifying about kneeling like a small child to simply receive: to be handed the host and then having the chalice guided to my lips for me to sip the wine. After each celebrant had partaken of the Eucharist, the Rector said again, "Go in peace."

Outside, there were bold flashes of lightning and loud, thunderous sounds of thunder from the storm. But inside this church, was something different, something contrasting, something restful and calming as the celebrants did not just go back to their pews but greeted each other with either "Peace be with you" or simply  "Peace." Oh how my soul needed to hear those words after having celebrated the communion of Christ's willingness to let his body be broken like bread and his blood to flow from him like wine and to be granted his peace.

There was a worshipful reverence to the whole service that fed and nourished a part of me that had not been in a very long time. I leaned in to this liturgy and found in it the language of the ineffable.

After the service had ended, I exited the sanctuary and, unlike my original plan, found myself now in conversation with the Rector himself.  This conversation was a pastorly one of the usual, "Are you new to the area? Are you a member of a church?" When he found out that I was a member in a local body, he was hesitant to suggest my coming back. I explained that this service fed something in me in such a way that I would love to come back again. I could make no promises beyond that. My family loves the church we attend and I am not about to pull them out of a church just because there is something in me that longs for something else that is richer and older in tradition, that embraces silence and liturgy. 

For years, my real Church has been the books I have read across the ecclesiastical spectrum. Still, despite my uncertainty about what path lies ahead for me, at least for one night, I felt a twinge of connection that makes me believe that I am, indeed, not alone in my faith, my spiritual wrestling, and a love for liturgical worship. 

In writing about Rilke's Seventh Divino Elegy, Christian Wiman's words apply, " . . . spiritual experiences must be transformed within us, that there is hard work of inwardness to do, of consciousness before those experiences become available to the rest of our lives."

Out of the ashes of Wednesday came hope and a curious wondering of what would happen next. It was now time for me to process just what that service ultimately meant in  my spiritual process, in my Christian journey. 

Still, at least for that night, I was simply and spiritually fed. And I carried with me those words that I will leave you with now, "Peace be with you."

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What Falls From The Sky: A Must-Read Memoir


Towards the end of my forty day "social media Sabbath," I received a copy of Esther Emery's memoir What Falls From The Sky about how she disconnected from the Internet for a year. I must admit, my first reaction was, "Lord, please don't be this your way of telling me that's what you want me to do next." Not only did she give up the Internet, but also her cell phone and debit cards. This is not a book about an experiment in simplicity but a deeply explored and deftly crafted story filled with honesty, tenderness, complexity and, ultimately, full of joy and hope. 

What Falls From The Sky is more than the story of how one person disconnected from the Internet to find true connection in the community around her, it's an exploration of finding the glue of grace in everything: from piecing together a broken marriage, to seeing the humanity in her drug-addicted neighbors, to finding the beauty in broken guitars. Emery is a pilgrim who not only rediscovers her faith but watches as it unfolds in the silence of a life without the added distraction of emails, Facebook, blogging, or Twitter. 

"If you've heard it said," Emery writes, "that God can be found in silence, or that silence can be found in God, then it is fair to say that I found both at the same time. I didn't always distinguish between the two, and sometimes I still don't. But the thing I came to realize was just how possible it is - even in this modern world - to give yourself up to both."

Having come out of a period in the wilderness of paying closer attention to my own habits, choices and becoming more attuned to God in the silence, this was a book that struck a chord with me. 

She writes candidly about moving from addiction (to social media) to finding identity as an "absolute beginner.""I have found," Emery says, "the one thing I can always be good at, I can always be brilliant at this. I can always, no matter what, under any circumstances, be an absolute beginner." That sentence made me recall Christ telling his followers that they were to become like little children to enter the kingdom of heaven. We must, all of us, be "absolute beginners" seeking God in all things. We see the author discovering this truth as she returns to church, going to Nicaragua (a place she didn't even know where it was), learning to cook and open her home to invite others to the table (a very Christ-like act). 

Emery does not hide her failures and struggles, but she does so in a way that draws the reader in and makes you feel like your sitting at her table, sharing in her story as if it were an intimate conversation. Like Henry David Thoreau at Walden, Emery is someone who does not want to live an unexamined life and, in so revealing her story, makes the reader want to more closely examine their own. 

What Falls From The Sky is a journey that you will want to undertake. 


Esther Emery's official website and blog:
http://estheremery.com

Her YouTube channel:
Esther Emery: The Homestead Wife

To follow her on Twitter:
Esther Emery

Sunday, March 26, 2017

40 Days Journal: Strength & Silence


One of the greatest spiritual strengths is silence.

What I discovered is that it is much easier to turn off the external noise (TV, radio) than to quiet the internal noise. It is as if I have more internal monologues than those stream-of-conscious ones in James Joyce's Ulysses. Whenever I attempt to quiet my interior, thoughts interrupt more than my children do whenever I'm on the phone. It's a real struggle to tune these thoughts out so that I can focus on God through centering or contemplative prayer. Thomas Keating wrote, "The root of prayer is interior silence." I strive for that kind of silence within me without all the competing thoughts that try to draw me away from communion with my Creator.

My first instinct whenever I get into my car to go somewhere is to turn on the radio and listen to either NPR or music. Yet I was called to silence throughout my day. This is a struggle because I love listening to music or podcasts and it's easy for me to justify listening when it's worship music or a Christian podcast or sermon. But even those can be a distraction from God and my being present to God. The forty days are a way of stripping bare all that's truly unnecessary so that I can not only become one who is spiritually focused in my attention but also in my intention. Why am I doing what I do? It is to create more God-centered time throughout my days so that I am loving and listening to Him more attentively and become more attuned to hearing Him in the silence.

Why?

Because, as Thomas Merton wrote, "The speech of God is silence. His word is solitude." I am striving to lead that kind of daily life in the best way that I can in a life that requires me to be a husband, father, coworker, friend and neighbor. The more time I spend in silence with God, the more intimacy I will have with Him. Intimacy with God will inevitably lead to intimacy with others, as one cannot love God without loving people. This is a place that needs much growth in my own life as I prefer to be alone and left alone. Certainly one way for me to do this is in praying for others every day because the more you pray for someone the more that you love them. And I am finding this to be true because I feel a deep sense of gratitude and affection for those I pray for on a daily basis. As I am praying, God sometimes has me praying for a specific person or a specific need. Or He will give me words to pray for them and over them: joy, peace, healing.

Yet to deepen my love for God and man, I must remove myself from the chaotic hurricane of noise that is both outside and inside of me. "Be silent before the Lord God!" Zephaniah 1:7 tells me.

The Greeks have a word kalchaino. It means "to search for the purple fish." These purple fish were shellfish that were highly prized for their rich purple dye used by the Greeks. Divers went to the bottom of the sea to try to find these elusive fish. Later, the Greeks would use this term kalchaino to mean plumbing the depths of oneself. Surely that is what Christ did in the wilderness and what I, too, will do over these forty days. But what will come from such depths?

"Solitude, silence and prayer," Henri Nouwen wrote, "are often the best ways of self-knowledge."  I, like many, do the best to distract myself from such knowledge because I know that when God shows me things about my life, He does so for me to work to change them, to emulate Christ more in my daily life. Self-knowledge is to confront those things about myself that most keep me from a more spiritually mature relationship to God and in God. It is to know myself so that I can go beyond myself in God, in Christ, through the help of the Holy Spirit that I might honor and glorify God in all that I say and do. That there is a congruence between what I proclaim to believe and what I am actually doing day after day after day.

How difficult will this be?

Scripture tells us that Christ was tempted for forty days, though we only know three of the temptations. As Mark 1:12-13 says, "The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by Satan, And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him." God leads us to the wilderness not for desertion of us but for the formation of us. We are drawn there to be away from the distractions that so often keep us from truly being aware and present to God, of facing the very temptations that keep us distracted and busy and from being who God created us to be and for the purposes He created us for.

Like Christ in the desert, what demons will I encounter?

My selfishness?
My loneliness?
My fears?
My lust?
My jealousies?
My pettiness?
My insecurities?

Part of centering prayer is identifying with Christ during his temptations in the desert. Only a few days in and the desire wells up in me to break from the path I was led to but the desert is always the pathway to divine union. He draws us out to draw us in.

Once there, in the wilderness, I am confronted with my doubts, confusion and anxiety. Do I really want to plumb the depths of myself with all of my weaknesses, sinfulness, and brokenness? Only by the divine grace of God. "Even in the depths of hell, You are there." That is not hell, as only the absence of God is truly hell.

This is all about self-surrender and trust. It is moving past the ego. It's moving past the self to the sacrament (silence, stillness and solitude).  Yet, when I begin each day, I find that the challenge is harder, not easier. There is more restlessness. Perhaps that is why one of the greatest spiritual actions is stillness.  "Be still, and know that I am God." I am so often busy to avoid that very connection, that communion with Him because, deep down, I know that God is always present where suffering and love meet. Like many, I avoid suffering. That is a sign of spiritual immaturity. Simone Weil wrote, "Love of God is pure when joy and suffering inspire an equal degree of gratitude." The question is not, "Can I do this?" but "Am I willing to do this?"

I know that coming into any contact with the Creator means change. One cannot come away the same. "The mystery of God's grace," Nouwen writes, "is that He often changes us in ways that we were not planning on and that sometimes we do not have eyes to see or ears to hear these changes in ourselves."

Lord, give me the fortitude for formation, no matter how difficult or painful. May the furnace burn away the dross of my hatred for anyone, my strong desire for the approval of others, for worshiping the very idols I have created for myself (comfort, security, a desperate longing to be understood and accepted). May I, with each new day, be drawn to where Your heart is and to see You in all things and in all people.


Friday, March 24, 2017

40 Days - Where Have You Been?


"What do You want from me?"

Is that a prayer?

If so, is asking God such a direct question impertinence? Yet, an answer came, "Go into the desert."

What?

"As Christ went into the desert for forty days, so I want you to do likewise."

Go into the desert? Are you kidding me? That's not even practical. I have a family and a job and responsibilities. I don't even like camping. I can't do that. And certainly not for forty days.

As my mind posed oppositions and questions to this answer, which was not the answer I wanted, God began to direct me into what He meant by the desert or wilderness His Holy Spirit was leading me to. He began with Lamentations 3:25-26, "The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord."

But what would that entail exactly?

The first part was that I would go on a social media Sabbath. This should not have surprised me since things like my blog, Twitter and Facebook has taken up so much of my time as I try to get this blog noticed and read by more followers.

The forty days was going to be a time for me to refocus my life and to become more intentional in what I am doing and really stopping to ask myself why I am doing what I'm doing. Is it really to glorify God or, more selfishly, to draw focus to myself?

It's funny, but the longer I stayed off social media, the more questions I got from people. From the curious, "Did you give it up for Lent?" No, actually, I started prior to the Lenten season. To the concerned, "Is there something wrong?" To the just plain baffled, "Why would you want to do that?" I never gave detailed reasons other than a "Sabbath" or simply "taking a break." Even among those who call themselves followers of Christ there are those who look at you askance if you say, "God told me to." Even before I began the forty days, I tended to get strange looks and the occasional question of, "Where are you coming from?" At first I found it puzzling and I would point out that I tried to live my life as close to the Sermon on the Mount as I can, but then I got responses like, "I don't think you're supposed to take all of that literally." And this comment was made by people who claimed to take the Bible literally and as inerrant.

Along with removing myself from social media, I would also limit the amount of time of all other media, such as television viewing. It also meant that I would use the time I would normally listen to my music or NPR, especially while I am driving in my car, to be in silence to pray or simply try to hear the voice of God that can so often be drowned out by all of the noise, even if it is worship music. Psalm 62:1 reminded me, "For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation." By removing so much of the distractions (social media, TV, radio, iPod) I would have more time to be attuned to the Spirit through praying (including centering prayer), studying scripture (particularly the gospels accounts of Christ in the wilderness) and meditating upon it, and reading theology or books of the faith by an ecumenical group of Christian authors (from Jean-Pierre De Caussade to Viktor E. Frankl to Henri Nouwen to Richard J. Foster).

That time that I had previously wasted on the computer or binge-watching shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime (such as Man in the High Castle), I could now stop and "Be still" and know that He is God. It provided me opportunity to be still and silent to listen to His voice through contemplative prayer for at least 20 minutes twice a day. Phileena Heuertz wrote in her book Pilgrimage of a Soul:

"In our modern world, it is much too easy to overextend our limits toward activity and productivity. Stillness, solitude and silence are not valued today like they may have been for our ancestors whose days were filled with these qualities simply by the nature of their life's labor and limitations, We tend to see restrictions to activity and engagement as something to be avoided. But limitations and restrictions can be grace for us. Within the context of our limitations, God do for us what what we cannot . . . Remember, we cannot make ourselves grow; but we can choose to submit or resist the process. And though much growth takes place in our active lives, all elements of creation are subject to contemplative stillness as an integral part of our growth and transformation . . ."

This would be a time of such stillness and contemplation.

It was my being aware to the world around me in the very creation of God. To see the miraculous in the mundane, the uncommonness of the common. It was being outside and taking walks and having conversations and asking myself continually, not "What can I get out of life?" but "What can I give in my life?" The world is filled with His glory and to just be open to that: through flowers and birds and streams and each person I cam across.

It also became a time to simplify my life and look at all that I own and ask myself: Do I really need all of this or can I give any of it away? So I began that process and used it as an opportunity to clean out my library of books that I knew I would never read again and to put them into the small libraries our town has in local parks.  It meant giving away clothes and extra coats to the local homeless shelter. As I gave things away, it also made me ask myself on what were the best uses of our finances going forward and to more closely consider what I bought and why I bought it. I was not created by God to be a consumer but to be a worshiper and a co-creator in this world. This has begun a process towards holy simplicity. I pray every day, "Give me the focus of simplicity."

This also impacted my eating habits and really asking me, "Why am I eating when I am eating? Am I really hungry or am I just bored? Is eating filling another void?" It meant that I didn't eat processed foods or junk food. I went without sugar or coffee. I drank primarily water. Even going without food forced me to focus on prayer, to let God meet that need and to fill that void.

I found myself asking: Where does my food come from? Where do my clothes come from? And the technology I own? It was investigating and asking myself if how I spent my money glorified God if I was buying items that came from exploitation or slave labor.

The forty days became a time of my forming holy habits that become the spiritual disciplines in my daily life so that I am not at the mercy of my compulsions, so I could focus on getting to the root of why I do or do not do things in my life. It was looking just beyond my personal spending to does this take advantage of the poor of the world.

My favorite prophet, Jeremiah, wrote, "For I know that plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart" (29:11-13).

It was with that verse that I began my forty days and journaled each day about what I was experiencing or struggling with or how the Spirit spoke to me and the opportunities God provided in my path each day to be a witness to His love for the world around me.

Charles Spurgeon said, "I must take care above all that I cultivate communion with Christ, for though that can never be the basis of my peace - mark that - yet it will be the channel of it."

This experience was far from easy (especially when I did serious self-reflection and analyzed my motivations) and I found how truly hard "dying to self'" really was and how to live this out in the midst of being a husband, father, neighbor, employee, coworker, member of a congregation, and, ultimately, a follower of Christ. It was a time of contemplation, reflection, meditation, study and healing through silence, solitude and stillness. It was a time of surrendering my body and my soul to the spirit of God. It was about being present and aware. Each day was a way to allow God to transform me and, to the degree that I was transformed, the world could be transformed.

Even though the forty days have ended, I feel like a new path, a new journey has just begun.

And now I will go have some coffee. . .


Monday, March 20, 2017

Reclaiming Hope


For years I considered myself apolitical. Yet I have found, as I have gotten older, that to not be political is to be political. It's difficult to be part of either political party when neither holds firmly to the beliefs that I do. In many ways, I'm conservative and, in others, I am liberal (particularly in regards to social justice).  I have never voted straight party ticket but have thoroughly investigated and checked the stances on specific issues for each candidate and then voted according to my conscience and after much prayer.

Growing up in a very conservative Republican and Protestant home, the closest my family had to a saint was Ronald Reagan. My mother's ideal for me was to be like Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox's character on the TV show Family Ties).  I was taught that I was:
1. A Christian
2. An American
3. Southern
4. Republican
And all of those things were blessings of God.

This is how I was raised yet, as I got older and the more I read my Bible, I began to question. Yet I struggled to find a candidate who I could fully support.

In 2008, a candidate ran on the platform of hope and the dignity of all. Despite the odds, Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. It was an historic election that made many wonder if our country had turned a corner, particularly in regards to race.

Now, over eight years later, we have watched as all of that has changed into fear, distrust and discrimination. During this last election, I, like many, grew weary of the polarizing divisiveness of American politics and of the system itself. Many are losing hope.  The author, Michael Wear, writes, " . . . I believe it is an error to identify Barack Obama - or any candidate or political movement - as the source of our hope. But at the same time, I do not want to dismiss his 2008 campaign as an illusion, to reduce it to a cautionary tale of the dangers of political commitments. There was real promise in that moment. Many hundreds of his campaign staff would say he changed their lives. For thousands of volunteers, first-time voters, and all who felt their voices were finally heard in our political process, the Obama campaign affirmed their dignity. If only politics did this all of the time."

At the age of twenty-one, Michael Wear served in the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships under President Obama. Reclaiming Hope is part memoir, part political observation and a book of ultimate hope and faith. Wear writes candidly and honestly about the highs and lows surrounding that administrations achievements. He also writes openly of something many overlooked or dismissed: President' Obama's strong faith.  Seldom did the media cover it, partly because many in the White House did not want them to just as there were many in the Democratic party who were unhappy that Obama continued the Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnership (which was started under Bush and many on the left felt should've been abandoned). Obama championed vocally for the inclusion of not only that Office but voices of faith to be heard. He was disappointed when many in the Evangelical Church either doubted his Christianity and falsely labeled him "Muslim."

Wear writes, "In 2010, respected academics David Campbell and Robert Putnam concluded in their landmark book, American Grace, that partisan politics were directly to blame for the rise of religiously unaffiliated Americans. 'The growth of the nones,' Campbell argued, 'is a direct reaction to the intermingling of religion and politics in the United States.' Evangelical writer Jonathan Merritt was more blunt in his assessment: 'As American Evangelicals have become more partisan, American Christianity has suffered as more shy away from the faith."

Yet, despite many people's claims to the opposite, President Obama's Christian beliefs showed up again and again in his speeches, especially those given at each National Prayer Breakfast.  He referenced his Christian faith more than the sainted Ronald Reagan. He spoke of how his beliefs shaped so much of how he viewed the world, others, and reaching out to help those in most desperate need. He spoke of being the Good Samaritan and he was "... the politician who injected the phrase 'I am my brother's keeper' into the political lexicon."

Michael Wear's book is balanced in his assessment of his former boss. He writes of watching the President change his position of gay marriage, as well as his attempt to find common ground between those who are Pro-Life and Pro-Choice to create ways to lessen the number of abortions in the United States. He also writes of achievements such as including the adoption tax credit and making human trafficking a major priority for his administration. This is an honest appraisal that balances both the highs and lows of being a Christian in the center of the public square.

Instead of the politicization of religion that so many in office use as a way to get elected, Michael Wear rights of the compelling need of real faith to intersect with politics. For those who have abandoned hope, this book is much needed and one will rediscover the reason for hope in the last two chapters. This is the hope that is more than a political slogan or bumper-sticker.

As we see our political system so mired down in ugliness and we seem more and more divided on issues, we should heed the words President Obama spoke at the 2010 National Prayer Breakfast:
"At times, it seems like we're unable to listen to one another; to have a serious and civil debate. And this erosion of civility in the public square sows division and distrust among our citizens. It poisons the well of public opinion. It leaves each side little room to negotiate with the other. It makes politics an all-or-nothing sport, where one side is either always right or always wrong when, in reality, neither side has a monopoly on the truth. And then we lose sight of the children without food and the men without shelter and the families without health care. So what's the answer? Empowered by faith, consistently, prayerfully, we need to find our way back to civility."

Yes, our political system desperately needs civility.

Our social media needs to be open to polite discourse that, while it does not always have to agree, it should always be respectful without breaking down into coarse, vulgar and incendiary comments.

All of us needs to truly and prayerfully be "empowered by faith."

Faith in what?

Not in a political candidate or party. As Wear writes in the introduction, "Politics is causing great spiritual harm and a big reason for that is people are going to politics o have their inner needs met. Politics does a poor job of meeting inner needs, but politicians will suggest they can do it if it will get them votes. The state of our politics is a reflection of the state of our souls."

Indeed.

Wear offers us more than politics, more than false hope and how we can truly reclaim real and lasting hope.

It doesn't matter whether you're Republican or Democrat, Conservative or Liberal, there is something in this book for everyone. This was one of the books I was most excited about this year and it did not disappoint. It's no wonder that it's gathered endorsements from J.D. Vance, Tim Keller, Russell Moore, Ann Voskamp and Sara Groves among others.


Michael Wear's official website:

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Assimilate Or Go Home: A Beautiful & Necessary Book Of Refugees & Stateless Wanderers


D. L. Mayfield starts off her book with failure. She writes of showing an apartment of full of devout Muslims The Jesus Film. What I love about how she narrates this experience was the fervent desire to proselytize and play the missionary. Realizing that the "heavy yoke" of her desire to convert was slipping off her shoulders, Mayfield sat there and listened to the rhythms of a foreign language and, instead of worrying about converting them, she simply entered their lives and loved them. She writes:

"Slowly, I started to enter more fully into the world of my refugee friends. As the days and months blended into years, I experienced strange paradoxes. The more I failed to communicate the love of God to my friends, the more I experienced it for myself. The more overwhelmed I felt as I became involved in the myriad of problems facing my friends who experience poverty in America, the less pressure I felt to attain success or wealth or prestige. And the more my world started to expand at my periphery, the more it became clear that life was more beautiful and more terrible than I had been told. The differences, although real, started to blur together a bit. Muslim, Christian, Somali, American. We were being told to assimilate or go home, but we couldn't do that either."

We live in a climate that has become hostile to refugees, immigrants and migrants. Somehow there is a fear of contamination, especially if they are Muslim. Xenophobia is rampant as so many of our political leaders and a great number of people in this country want to ban foreigners, particularly Middle Easterners, from entering the United States.

D.L. Mayfield writes with thoughtful honesty and deep humility. Growing up Evangelical, she had a heart for converting the world for Christ but found that what was needed was loving the world because she, herself, was being converted daily to become more like Christ. What began with eager enthusiasm crashed into the hard realities of being a missionary. She discovered that chasing spiritual highs would leave her continually unsatisfied. Mayfield admits that she had to learn to stop seeing herself as "the generous benefactor" when she would discover "just like the Bible said, it was the poor, the sick, and the sad who would be blessed in the kingdom of god - and they would be the ones who would reveal it to me."

The book is written as essays to mirror the four general stages a refugee goes through in acclimating to their new lives: anticipation , reality, depression and acceptance.  She deftly connects her own spiritual journey using these four stages as she moves from religion to the kingdom of God. The more she was drawn to this kingdom, the more she found herself drawn to the margins, to the "stateless wanderers of the earth" where Jesus said he would always be found. "I used to want to witness to people," she writes, "to tell them the story of God in digestible pieces, to win them over to my side. But more and more I am hearing the still small voice calling me to be the witness. To live in proximity to pain and suffering and injustice instead of high-tailing it to a more calm and isolated life. To live with eyes wide open on the edges of of our world, the margins of society."

D. L. Mayfield has an intelligence and compassion that comes through in her prose. She is a skillful storyteller who is not afraid to reveal her failures as she questions her own motives for why she really was working with the poor Somali Bantu refugees in Portland, where she lives.  Her story is coming to the realization that following Christ isn't about simply believing in Jesus and going to heaven. As she writes, " . . . reading Jesus's words it becomes apparent that the kingdom is very much about the here and now, changing the world to reflect what God desires: the oppressed would have justice, the poor would be fed, and the stateless wanderers would be taken care of."

The books title, Assimilate or Go Home, confronts the reality that so many in this country and in the Church have. Be and act like us, or go away. With the huge crisis of global refugees the world is currently facing, this book takes on a deeper and more painful meaning. Reading this book, one sees the hardships that come with refugees who struggle to but cannot seem to assimilate in their new country with its culture and language. It's a complex issue that Mayfield writes about with compassion as well as frustration. Being present to their pain and suffering and poverty is hard, tiring, emotionally exhausting. "I realized I was tired of being comfortable with sickness and death and inequality," she says, "so, too, was I tired of being overwhelmed with all of the places it seemed God was absent."

Yet there is nothing more Christ-like than loving others in the midst of their trauma and poverty. To speak up and be a witness against a system that's broken and in desperate need of repair. Mayfield, despite the hardships, remains hopeful, remains engaged, remains involved. Like the author, all of us need to be present and in "proximity to the pain and suffering and injustice" so that we, too, can be a witness. It's about leaving the mission field to find, instead, community. Assimilate or Go Home is a must-read.


Check out D. L. Mayfield's official website Living in the Upside Down Kingdom:


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Return to the Ragamuffin: A Review Of Brennan Manning's A Ragamuffin Gospel


Years ago, I became aware of Brennan Manning through the musician Rich Mullins. Having grown up in the Church, I most often heard sermons about personal holiness and more on sin than I can even begin to count. Yet, what I seldom, if ever, heard were messages about the grace of God. Oftentimes salvation seemed like a tenuous thing that could easily be lost with just the wrong choice and that we had to cling tightly to Jesus for dear life. It was exhausting,

And then I read The Ragamuffin Gospel and wondered why it took me so long to read these words - words that could free a person from the bondage of performance and fear. Manning wrote about grace in a way that I had never heard or read about it before, though he sent me scrambling to my Bible to encounter that this was the very message Christ taught and lived. How had I missed it for so long? How had so many pastors gotten it so wrong? Why was there so much legalism and so little of the unconditional love of our Abba?

"My deepest awareness," Manning writes, "is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to deserve or earn it."

What?

That's not what I had been taught. Where was the wrathful judgmental God who kept lists and checked off every mistake, every sin and every failure?

I longed to read the words of truth that I encountered in The Ragamuffin Gospel. "The deeper we grow in the Spirit of Jesus Christ," he writes, "the poorer we become - the more we realize that everything in life is a gift. The tenor of our lives becomes one of humble and joyful thanksgiving." Gone was the drudgery and being begrudgingly obedient out of fear of hell, but of willingly following Christ not our of fear but out of love and a desire to know and experience more of him day by day. To realize that I was, indeed, a "beloved" son of God.

After I first read this book, I bought extra copies and began to give it out to everyone I could think of and thrust it into their hands with, "You must read this book. It will revolutionize and change your life."

I gave it to every broken and hurting sinner and saint I knew. And it did change lives. They, like me, saw God afresh and anew. We see our Creator not through the restrictive eyes of pharisaical law, but through the loving eyes of Christ.

"For those who feel their lives are a grave disappointment to to God," Manning says, "it requires enormous trust and reckless, raging confidence to accept that the love of Christ knows no shadow of alteration or change. When Jesus said, 'Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened,' He assumed we would grow weary, discouraged, and disheartened along the way."

Christ knew that we would and he lovingly chose us anyway. "I know you will doubt. I know you will fail and stumble. I know you will be hard-headed and hard-hearted sometimes. I know you will feel lonely and rejected and hurting. I know you will despair and question. But know that I love you. I call you  mine even when you cannot believe it, even when you cannot feel it, even when you abandon me, I will not abandon you." This is the Jesus of the gospels. This is the Jesus that Brennan Manning served and loved and wrote about. This is Jesus.

It was many years after reading The Ragamuffin Gospel that I was fortunate enough to get to attend a weekend retreat he held. I think it was around the time that his book A Glimpse of Jesus: The Stranger to Self-Hatred was published. Just as I had been when I first encountered his books, I needed to hear the words Manning spoke. Many of those gathered for the retreat, found themselves in tears from his message. They were words that provided deep healing and profound wisdom and grace.

At one point, towards the end of the retreat, he told the story of Don Quixote who saw the prostitute, Aldonza, whom he renamed Dulcinea, not as a whore but referred to her as "My lady." While she could not see herself as anything but worthless and cheap, Don Quixote chivalrously saw her as moa lady and someone whom he offered his honor and service to. Isn't that how Christ sees all of us? It's exactly the point that Manning made. Christ saw past our sins and called us "My beloved."I can still hear "Dream the Impossible Dream" playing on his cassette recorder as he had us all close our eyes and listen to the lyrics of this Broadway song from Man of La Mancha. Grace was more than a dream. It is a daily reality that so many miss out on because they so seldom encounter it in the Church or much of Christian writing.

Manning writes from sheer honesty and rawness about his own flaws and failures, especially in regards to his alcoholism. But from the depths of his pain, he understands the beauty and great gift that grace truly is. We are, all of us, broken and in need of a healer, in need of mercy and forgiveness. We are, all of us, ragamuffins.

If you haven't read this book, I highly recommend that you do. Just as I thrust it into the hands of people I knew, I will tell you, "You must read this book. It will revolutionize and change your life."

It surely did mine.


Brennan Manning on God's love:


Sunday, March 5, 2017

Becoming Curious: A Spiritual Practice Of Asking Questions


I was raised to take scripture seriously as the Word of God, but when I simply didn't just take what I was being taught at face value, but had legitimate theological questions, I was made to feel ashamed of them. Questions sparked fear in my Sunday School teachers and in my parents. Questions created doubt within me. Doubt, not in God, but in myself; in that I was made to feel that to ask a question was somehow wrong. For years I suffered under that fear. Oh how I wish I had encountered a book like Casey Tygrett's Becoming Curious: A Spiritual Practice of Asking Questions a long time ago. 

As he writes, "Questions require us to see the kingdom of God as it is and as it can be in this moment, this time and this place in our story." Questions begin in curiosity. Curiosity and questions lead someone beyond their own limitations to the endless possibilities established by the creative act of grace. Questions don't necessarily lead to doubt but to deeper thinking. 

So why do so many fear questions? 

The author states, ". . . questions make us vulnerable, revealing that we don't know the answer, and not knowing the answer makes us feel weak. We begin to realize how truly unguarded and fragile we are when we ask our deepest questions." 

Yet Casey Tygrett shows how, in asking, we receive. Not always answers, because Christ came not to give us answers but himself.  And Jesus loved questions. Tygrett points this fact out, "Jesus in the Gospels engages with nearly 183 questions. Sometimes he asks, sometimes he's responding, but what I can't shake is that in the nearly three years Jesus had to transform the narrative of the people of God he often chose to ask instead of tell." I love that. As someone who was born questioning, I love a savior who delights in them, who understands how questions spark more questions and deeper thought to what he was asking or teaching. 

Questions, like the very Incarnation, are unsettling because they force us to expand our thinking. Christ calls us to question ourselves: our identity, our priorities, how we interact with others, how we love God, ourselves and others, and do we forgive as we are forgiven.

Christ understood that when we question, we are actively thinking, not just passively accepting. Questions open up our minds to more than the here and now, that when we question we are not settling for the status quo but striving to make and shape ourselves and the world around us into the kingdom of God (Christ always preached the kingdom not as some future place we go after death but what we are to strive for in our daily lives in the very places that we now live in). Questioning means that the person is not taking anything for granted but wants to comprehend truths beyond the shallow surface that so many simply glide along on. It is becoming like a little child and asking, "Why?" Such is the kingdom of heaven, as Christ reminded his disciples. 

Faith is not about finding better answers but in forming better questions. It's about letting go of expectations to experience the miracle that can be found in my daily life if I am present to it. This book offers followers of Christ the impetus to explore not only the questions that the author raises, but their own and to know that it is not only spiritually okay, it's desired by our Creator. Becoming Curious is a work that one can return to again and again to stir up the sediment of one's thoughts and return to a more reflective frame of mind. 

You can pre-order Becoming Curious: A Spiritual Practice of Asking Questions which will not be released until May 2017 by InterVarsity Press. 


Casey Tygrett's official website:
http://www.caseytygrett.com

Official book trailer: