Thirsting for Coffee With God- A Very Spiritual Practice
This will probably be the last post in the What is a Spiritual Practice series and it seems appropriate that because I live in Seattle the last post is about drinking coffee. Today's post comes from Richard Dahlstrom senior pastor at Bethany Community Church in Seattle. Richard blogs at Pastoral Musings from Rain City. His recent book O2 Breathing New Life into Faith is well worth a read. I also suggest that you check out some of Richard's current posts - The Spinning Thing and Impact or Aroma? An Important Distinction. Richard Dahlstrom -- "If any man is thirsty, let Him come to me and drink..." Of course, it's a bit of a rhetorical statement, offered as it was at a time whenon demand faucets and indoor plumbing hadn't yet been invented, and offered in a place that regular saw temperatures above 100, (or 30 if you're Canadian). Of course they're thirsty. The words of Jesus aren't really words about thirst; the thirst part is presupposed. The real heart of the statement is that when you're thirsty, you're to come and drink of Jesus. Now, I love metaphor as much as most people (save some geeky poet friends), but there are times when Jesus' words frustrate me no end. He talks about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. What's that supposed to mean? When His mom comes looking for Him, he turns to the crowd and says, "Who is my mother?" as if He's forgotten what she looks like. And now this: "if you're thirsty, come and drink of me." Unlike some of the most popular parables, Jesus never took the disciples aside in the back room and explained this thirst metaphor. He just hung it out there for us to embrace and practice without offering a stitch of explanation. While this frustrates me, it's also true that these open ended statements are part of what makes the Bible live for every generation. Because everything's not spelled out, we need to wrestle with it, pray about it, talk about it, contextualize it, and hold our answers with enough boldness to explain why believe them, and enough humility to discard them when more light shines on our convictions and shows us we need to shift. So, realizing that we don't have the privilege of Jesus sidebar interpretation, here's how this living word has been speaking to me lately: First of all, I reiterate that the issue isn't whether or not I'm thirsty; thanks be to God I am, and most of the time, I thirst for intimacy in my marriage, meaning in my work, healing of my soul, authentic relationships with my adult children. I thirst to be informed by truth and grace as I fulfill my responsibilities of a shepherd. I thirst for sanity in world, peace, justice, beauty, hope. If those were the limits of my thirsts then learning to drink from Jesus would be simple because these are good thirsts and a good drink will quench a good thirst. My problem, though, is that interwoven with those few noble thirsts are lots of other things, uglier things. I thirst to be adored, to be left alone, to be comfortable, to be so wealthy and secure that I need never depend on anyone again, least of all God. I thirst for relational autonomy way too often. I thirst for the stimulation of the city, and the beauty of the mountains. I thirst to expand my sphere of influence, and to move to the middle of nowhere, where I can fish, cook, climb, and be the master of my own universe. What a mess of thirsts! And herein lies the hope of Jesus words, the point for me at which they begin to make sense. It's encouraging that Jesus doesn't moralize about my thirsts, casting judgement on my desires. I can already hear some of you accusing me of heresy here, but don't light the fire yet. For too many centuries, the church has wrongly assessed that our problems stem from our desires. But I can't find Jesus running around ranting about our desires anywhere in the gospels, even the non-canonical ones! Instead, His invitation is related to what we do when the pangs of anythirst are born in our hearts, never mind whether the thirst comes from our wounded, rebellious soul, or our deepest longings for the world God created. In both cases the admonition is the same: if you're thirsty, come to Jesus. This is profoundly liberating for me because I'm learning to link my relationship with Jesus with all my thirsts, not just my healthy ones, but the unhealthy ones too. It's also counterintuitive. The gnawing unhealthy thirsts tell me that they won't be satisfied with anything less than an unhealthy beverage, the soul equivalent of a monster slurpee when what I really need is fresh squeezed OJ. Of course, this is where faith comes in. This is where I'm learning to interact with Jesus and find some measure of satisfaction in Him, both when I'm thirsting for healthy intimacy, and when I'm lusting for pleasure or escape. Somehow, the turning to Christ in the midst of my unhealthy thirsts has the effect of changing my appetites; not instantly, and not entirely, but subtly and slowly. Thanks be to God, I'm slowly losing my appetite for soul slurpees. The methodology Jesus had mind for "drinking of Him" remains a mystery because I don't think He had a methodology in mind. He wants us to wrestle with this stuff. For me, a born and bred Baptist, it's taken nearly half a century to discover that this "drinking of Christ" works best for my soul when I pray daily prayers from a book like this one, which is a decidedly non-Baptist practice. "Coffee with God" is what I call it, and it's become increasingly important to my mornings, not in a legalistic way, but in some sort of better way. It entails brewing a pot of French Press and then sitting (outside or in, depending on seasons) with Jesus as I pray the daily prayers, drawn from the Psalms, and pour out my heart. I do this because of all my thirsts, and for this reason, I'm learning to thank God for this holy and unholy juxtaposition of desires because together they lead me to the water of Christ I'd never have found if I weren't thirsty.
I have been thinking for some time of giving some of my views about the current debate on healthcare reform in spite of the fact that I usually try to steer away from political issues. Then yesterday when I was uploading Kathy Escobar's post I visited her blog and was delighted to see that the spirited discussion that is already going on about healthcare. I realized too that Kathy expressed most of my sentiments and so I did not really need to add my own article.
i am strongly and adamantly in support of universal health care. i know some of you are cringing right now and that’s fine, we will agree to disagree. we live in one of the wealthiest, most-educated, most christianized, supposedly most sophisticated nations in the world and 46 million people in this country do not have health insurance and access to proper health care. i believe that is wrong. Read the entire article here.Having trained as a medical doctor and worked in countries with both socialized and privatized healthcare I am very aware of the pros and cons on both sides. But I must confess that I have never worked in another country where people are afraid of going bankrupt because they get sick. Evidently in the US half of all bankruptcies are due to illness. Nor have I been in a country that thinks it has the best health care system in the world yet allows eighteen thousand people to die each year because they are uninsured. And the US has the highest infant mortality of any Western nation. These factors alone give me cause for concern so I am delighted to see that other far more able voices than mine are being raised about this issue. Kathy's article is part of a synchroblog that ran through August. Here are some of the other articles which as you can see don't all express the same viewpoint.
- K.W. Leslie at The Evening of Kent: Christian’s Responsibility to Healthcare
- Ellen Haroutunain: Christian Perspectives on Health Care
- Steve Hayes at Khanya: Self-evident Truths and Moral Turpitude
- Kimber Caldwell at Convergence: Is Health Care a Right?
- Beth Patterson at Virtual Tea House: Baby Steps Toward More Humane Humanity
- Liz Dyer at Grace Rules: A Christian Perspective On Health Care Reform
- Phil Wyman at Square No More: Clowns to the Left? Jokers to the Right? Stuck in the Middle of the Health Care Debate
- Jeff Goins – A Christian’s Response to Healthcare in America
- Susan Barnes at A Book Look – Carrying Your Own Load
The Spirituality of Creating
This morning there is much to share - lots of creative juices flowing which is very much in keeping with the theme of today's spiritual practice. First I am in busy preparation mode for upcoming events which you might like to check out. I will be speaking at the West Coast Healthcare Missions and Ministry Conference in Pasadena CA September 17 - 19 Also getting ready for Mustard Seed Associates Wild Camano Forest tour September 26th. Tom and I head out for Australia September 29th. If you are interested in connecting we will be at: Black Stump Festival Intensives (a week each) at Worldview Centre for Intercultural Studies Tasmania Tom will speak on Joining the New Conspirators in the Shadow of the Empire My topic Spiritual Rhythms for Everyday Life in a Hectic World UNOH - A Revolution for Hope Another intensive at Tabor College Adelaide So all of that as preamble to the latest in What is a Spiritual Practice from John Chandler - The Spirituality of Creating. John is a pastor in Austin Texas. He blogs at Some Strange Ideas
Most of my life, I’ve been been stuck with one consistent label. Whether teachers, family, friends, or those who just didn’t know what to do with me, I was told I was “creative”. Of course I like to be called…if feels cool. But in recent years, I’m learning that it is one thing to be called creative and it is another thing entirely to be creative. It’s hard work to create something. And why is it hard? Because to create, to make something, is a spiritual practice. A few years ago, good friends were visiting us while we lived in Seattle. To enjoy the time them and share the beauty of the Pacific NW, we took a drive across Whidbey Island. On our drive we settled into a discussion of what it means to be made in the image of God. As I took in the beautiful scenery sweeping past the windows of our minivan, I came to a realization that had never occurred to me before… To be made in the image of God is to be made a creative being. I had always considered that being made in the image of God means that we have the core characteristics of God’s image imprinted on our soul, no matter how broken we may be. Every human shares God’s need to give and receive love, compassion, pleasure and relationship. Likewise, a person who makes, who creates, is a human who is straining into the image of God that sits in their soul. Now you might have realized long ago that to be creative is to exercise the image of God within. But for me, it was a fresh, important, and empowering shift in how I view my “creative” label. It was not just who I was, but who I am meant to be. And whether or not you’ve been told you’re creative, it’s who you were made to be as well. The Creator was the first creative, and that first act of creating was an expression of love. NT Wright describes it this way: The creation of the world was the free outpouring of God's powerful love. The one true God made a world that was other than himself, because that is what love delights to do. And every creative act since, in it’s most pure form, is an act of love. It is a gift to others, an invitation to life and goodness. The strokes of a pen, the dabs of paint, the strums of a guitar -- any act of creativity is a partnering with God in re-creation. In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott penned these words about the beauty, and the difficulty, of writing. But I think you could translate her words to any creative expression: You are going to have to give and give and give and give, or there’s no reason for you to be writing. You have to give from the deepest part of yourself, and you are going to have to go on giving, and the giving is going to have to be its own reward. There is no cosmic importance to your getting something published, but there is in learning to be a giver. The compulsion I feel, and you feel, to make something new is crying out from the core of our humanity. It is calling you to give yourself for the benefit of others. And that is why it is hard, and why sometimes you feel blocked. The part of you that is broken, the part of you that only wants to be concerned about the protection of self, is trying to hold back who God created you to be. You bear the image of the Creator.
The spiritual practices blog series is coming to a close. Christine has just a few more to post after this. Here's the round-up of posts for the last month: Celebrations and Parties as a Spiritual Discipline by Kathy Escobar, The Refuge The Spirituality of Drinking (Chinese) Tea by Andy Wade Networking as Spiritual Practice by Steve Knight, Mothering as a Spiritual Practice by Tara Malouf, Red Thread Photography Coloring as a Spiritual Practice by Danielle Grubb Shroyer, Journey Church Being Quiet as a Spiritual Practice by Eliacín Rosario Cruz, Mustard Seed Associates Settling In: Reestablishing Spiritual Practices in a New Place by Ed Cyzewski, author of Coffeehouse Theology Civil Disobedience as Spiritual Practice by Jarrod McKenna Running as Spiritual Practice by Luis Fernando Batista, Renovatio Cafe How to Exercise Caution When Getting Back to Exercise by Adrienne Carlson Playing Children's Games as Spiritual Practice by Julie Clawson Intergenerational Friendships as Spiritual Practice by David Zimmerman, InterVarsity Press Unemployment as a Spiritual Practice by Stephen Herbert Editing Your Life: The Spiritual Discipline of Editing by Marcus Goodyear, The High Calling Living in Transition as Spiritual Practice by Guy Chieleski
Celebrations and Parties as A Spiritual Discipline
Well the What is a Spiritual Practice blog series is winding down but I am still continuing to receive articles so I intend to continue to post them over the next few weeks. today's article comes from Kathy Escobar . Kathy describes herself as mommy. wife. friend. pot-stirrer. shepherd. follower of Jesus. peace maker. rule-breaker. dreamer. She blogs at The Carnival In My Head and also The Refuge on Line I love this article because I read somewhere once that "everywhere that Jesus went there was a party" - not only is partying a good spiritual discipline but it is good theology too.
celebrations & parties as a spiritual discipline i have always loved parties. ever since i was little i was always the one planning the get-together, hosting the shower, somehow finding a reason to gather people to celebrate something-or-other. it wasn’t until this past few years that i recognized that parties and celebrations were actually a spiritual discipline. and one that is fun to practice! i don’t think everyone loves to throw parties, but most people like to participate in them in some shape or form. sure there are big-crowd people and smaller-crowd people…gourmet foodies and pre-made costco-junkies (that’s me)….kids-or-no-kids types..alcohol or sodas…and everything in between. regardless, it seems that most people love a reason to gather. a reason to get together with other people and “honor” life somehow. it could be a birthday, anniversary, graduation, retirement, promotion, post-memorial service reception, moving in open house, a moving on farewell, or a host of other things to celebrate. each time we are together for one of these celebrations somehow we are celebrating God’s movement in our lives and the lives of others. they are sacred spaces—no matter how fancy or unintentional—a set-apart time to say “God, we know you are at work somehow and we are thankful.” whenever i leave a celebration i always leave a little more full, a little more inspired, and somehow more mindful of my own life and what God is up to in it. birthdays remind us of God’s creation, how thankful we are for the people in our lives, that they are here for one more year and the impact they have had. anniversaries remind us of how it could only be God that could keep faithfully binding hearts and lives together through the good times and the bad. post-memorial service receptions are always a special space to reflect on how short life is and to be grateful for extended family & friends and the weird ways lives intersect over time. graduations remind us of God’s help & provision in “getting us through” certain milestones in our education and life. moving in open houses flood homes with hope & possibility for what’s ahead while moving-on parties cause us to remember how sometimes God has other plans for us and we have to be courageous enough to follow where we’re lead. the bottom line: each party or celebration we are part of is a beautiful form of communion, a celebrating of life, an infusion of the Spirit of God into our hearts individually & collectively. we might not always notice parties & celebrations as a spiritual practice, but i think they are an integral part of our life together in community & a significant place to notice God-at-work. Jesus seemed to love parties & get-togethers. i wonder if it was for some of the same reasons.
The Spirituality of Drinking (Chinese) Tea
Today's post, which seems very appropriate for me when I am heading off for a few relaxing days and I know I will be drinking lots of tea, is written by Andrew Wade. He and his family have recently returned from several years of working in Hong Kong where Andy worked as a Mennonite pastor. At least that is what he says, though I suspect he spent a lot of his time drinking tea. Andy Wade – Drinking Chinese tea is an art. It's also a form of hospitality. It is much more than just boiling water and plopping in a bag of jasmine tea. The water needs to be just the right temperature. The teapot, small and made of clay, should only be used with one kind of tea and never washed, only rinsed. The flavor of the tea soaks into the pores of the teapot and enhances flavor over time. When brewing tea, the teapot is partially filled with loose leaves, which are then rinsed with near boiling water. The teapot is again filled with hot water and the leaves allowed to steep for just the right amount of time. When properly brewed, 5-7 pots of tea can be made from the same leaves, each batch with the same clarity and taste as the original. As pot after pot is poured, the leaves lose some of their flavor so each new brew requires a bit more steeping time than the last. Tiny cups are sipped while conversation unfolds, revealing its own intensity and flavor. As I pondered this art, I reflected on our lives as followers of Jesus. Like teapots, we're each unique, fragile vessels created to contain one essence, that of our Creator. Over time, the flavor of God intensifies in our lives as the Spirit seeps into our pores and transforms our nature, making us more like the Creator in whose image we are formed. Like the tea leaves, we are also unique, each variety requiring a different processing and brewing technique that results in the perfect cup of tea. When we first encounter the Risen Christ, a cleansing is in order. Like leaves rolled tightly into little balls and dried by the edge of the road, we've collected dust, dirt, and contaminants that alter our flavor. We are washed, not with lukewarm water or water heated in a microwave, but water heated to a boil over fire. As Jesus' life is poured out on the cross, his life, love, and sacrifice infuse our lives, cleansing us of the filth that clings so closely in every wrinkle and crevice of our withered lives. Like the tightly rolled leaves, we expand, allowing God’s Spirit to reach more and more of our being. Rinsed in Christ, we are now ready to be used by God. When another type of tea is used in the pot, the flavor is corrupted. So it is with our lives, when we permit the flavor of God to mix with greed, nationalism, lust, and a whole host of other gods. When this happens the tea poured out tastes “off”. Something is wrong. The tea is called by the same name and even tastes similar, but the quality is distorted, reflecting something other than the intended brew. Like each new cup, there is a consistency to God's desire for us as well. Just as the tea leaves change with every pot, so our lives change as we grow in Christ. The same water fills the pot but each batch requires its own unique timing. We often get into religious ruts by assuming the way things have been done is the way they always should be done. But we fail to see that God's been working in and around us, transforming God's creation. Like finely brewed tea, the flavor and consistency of God hasn't changed, we have. With each filling of our lives with the sacrificial love of Jesus, God's “timing”, that variable which is the intersection of created with Creator, is adjusted. Like tea, there is also a kind of faith that's bagged and ready, even “instant”, promising the true taste of God without any real substance. These pre-packaged teas are quick and easy but something is seriously lacking – rushing toward the end, they’ve left out all the elements in-between that truly make tea what it is. Finely brewed tea involves patience as you sit together with friends conversing while the water is boiled. It involves allowing the leaves to be properly cleansed and to expand. It involves the act of service and attention as the brewer engages both the guests and the tea-making process. Like true faith, the art of drinking tea involves everything around us and is something to be lived and savored, not rushed. As we take time with God and in community our true flavor is revealed. Following in the path of our Lord, we find ourselves poured out into tiny cups all over the world -- in fellowship, witness, service. When attention is paid to the brewing process, the clarity and consistency of each cup looks and tastes like Jesus, revealing through our fragile vessels and the content of our character the transforming love of God for all creation.
Networking as a Spiritual Practice
I have been a little slow with posting today because Tom and I are on the road again. We are heading for a few days off in British Columbia with some friends but I wanted to make sure that I posted the last of the articles I have received for the What is a Spiritual Practice Series before I go off line for a feew days. Today's article is from Steve Knight who describ3s himself as a kingdom journalist. He is passionate about telling stories and “describing the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:11) He blogs at knightopia.com Tomorrow I will post one from Andy Wade who has recently returned from several years in Hong Kong.
At some point over the past 10 years, I began telling friends (and anyone else who would listen) that “networking” was one of my “spiritual gifts.” I realized, saying this, that networking was not one of the traditional gifts in a strictly biblical sense. But I found the joy and satisfaction I got from connecting personally with other people, as well as the thrill of connecting like-minded people to each other and people to things (e.g., job opportunities, good information, etc.), was really a lot like the serenity and fulfillment one might receive from a healthy, life-giving spiritual practice. Read the entire article
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