Tag Archives: Spirit

water and spirit

hornet

Yesterday I decided to engage in a task that was a long time coming…cleaning out the youth supply closet. Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with a youth supply closet, I want you to picture your junk drawer in your house; and now it’s a closet. So as you can well imagine there were quiet a few things that needed to make the fifty foot trek to the dumpster.  It also happened to be an incredibly rainy day. But on one of my trips to the dumpster I noticed a path being carved in the water before me. After dropping my load I came back to observe a single hornet that was carving the path in the water. He was holding on against the inevitable. Fall is coming…winter is coming…and a deluge of water was pushing against him and yet he still held on stubbornly against the inevitable. Here he was exposed to imminent danger (feet, cars, etc.) and yet he persisted. I almost wonder if he would have been safer to let the current carry him. Would he have found refuge further down the stream and then be able to live out his last few weeks in a better place; an open place?

I feel like we in the church can be guilty of hanging on to things we should let go of. Culture and the winds of change push us so aggressively that we are scared and so we hang on to that which we know/understand. The problem is that this isn’t a new problem. In the third chapter of the gospel of John we read about someone who was shook by all of the newness that was being ushered in. He was anxious about this Jesus character but could not comprehend why he should change or how he could change in order to accommodate his known identity, tradition, methods, etc. Jesus responds to him in part and eventually says to Nicodemus, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” – John 3:8 Those truly born of the Spirit know what it is to move by the Spirit’s leading. They know what it looks like to let go and allow the current of God to carry them into newness of heart and life (that’s a very loaded phrase if you dig into it).

So back to the hornet and hanging on. Sometimes what we perceive in fear may actually be the moving of God. Think about it for a minute Abraham left all he knew, Moses stood up to a god-king, Joshua faced down giants, 3 Hebrew children didn’t bow, Peter got out of the boat, Matthew left his tax booth, Saul forsook all he ever knew (it was rubbish)…they all let go of relative safety, what they knew and the tradition they had embraced in order to be carried by God’s Spirit into something unknown, foreign, scary and unpredictable…and the world would never be the same. So what are you clinging to today? What terrifies you about God’s movement amidst the winds of culture? Where is God calling you to pull up anchor and join the movement of His Spirit? May we be those born of Water and Spirit and not those who cling to dry and stagnant land amidst the current of God.

Advertisements

noisy

cinema-dark-display-8158

This morning, as I am often apt to do on days that I blog, I woke up and thought to myself, “What in the world am I going to write about today?” I’m sure there’s some fancy phrase for this dilemma like writer’s stymie or writer’s barricade…but anyway.  As one is apt to do in this situation I turned to my trusty friend social media to see if I could find inspiration and was immediately inundated, nay overwhelmed with commentaries, discussions, opinions, etc. on everything under the sun. It’s as if social media has become an interstate clogged with billboards intended to either bottleneck traffic or have you swerve off the road entirely. Trying to make sense of all that is coming at you could almost be a full-time job and I was looking here for inspiration…? I wonder how often we step into the social media fray hoping to come away inspired and bettered by what we encounter there? And in the same vein how often do we come away feeling like we’ve encountered nothing but noise?

One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament revolves around the prophet Elijah. Elijah is a titan of a prophet who has an amazing showdown with over 400 prophets of Ba’al and sees YHWH answer with fire from Heaven. And then as if that isn’t enough he declares the end of a drought and then outruns a royal chariot on foot. Then in the midst of all the noise he receives a death threat from the queen and runs and hides for fear of his life. To answer Elijah among all of the noise God takes him to a solitary place and here is where we pick up in scripture. “The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.” – 1 Kings 19:11-13

The phrase in the scripture for “gentle whisper” is actually best translated “sound of sheer silence”. This is where the prophet, who has been surrounded by noise and craziness and even good things, encounters God. This is where the prophet finds the ability to keep going. This is where the prophet finds inspiration. And I began to think about how often I disengage from the noise. How often do we turn off our devices? How often do we turn off the news? How often do we turn off our echo chambers that affirm how we think in order to listen to the One in whom we believe? My challenge to myself and perhaps to you as well today is to allow the noise to be the noise. May we also give space in our lives to the quiet so that perhaps we may have that same encounter in the “gentle whisper” which is the space in which the Spirit often speaks.


overload

Once upon a time it was just the newspaper. Then with the advent of radio everything changed. A few decades after that technology gave rise to the television. As the digital age grew we found ourselves with email, social media and the birth of the 24/7 inundation of headlines and bulletins from every corner of the globe in the ongoing pursuit of information and the need to stay currently aware. And all of a sudden we find ourselves in the thick of an ongoing exhaustive media stream and we have become overwhelmed. At any moment of any given day we can open our smart phones, computers, tablets, etc. and find some sort of an article, bulletin, or blog post that is sure to arouse feelings of anger, frustration, fear, paranoia, hatred, anxiety, etc. and leave us feeling overloaded. There is so much wrong in the world and we just want/need to set it right…

As Jesus was preparing to leave his disciples in the latter part of the book of John He gave them some last words of comfort. He knew that they were about to be overwhelmed by all that would take place in the next few days and so he issued a promise to them of the presence of the Holy Spirit and before He prayed over them He said this, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33. The Greek root behind the word for trouble in this passage is best defined as ‘pressing’ or ‘pressure’. Jesus was saying to His disciples and ultimately to us that this world will weigh in on you, pressing you, overloading you, overwhelming you…but take heart. I am leaving you with this promise of the presence of my Spirit so that you may have peace, harmony, in the midst of the overload. The last phrase in this passage refers to Jesus being Lord (overcome) over the kosmos. And although we translate that as world, it literally refers to everything there is.

So if you are like me during this turbulent time of knowing everything that happens in every corner of the planet thirty seconds after it happens you are probably feeling a little overwhelmed, overloaded. How can I make a difference in this world that is so chaotic? Do something with me for a moment. Take a deep breath…go ahead, I’ll wait. You feel that? It’s a gift from God. God has given you this moment. Maybe you can take it to hug a family member. Maybe you can use it to engage in conversation with a stranger. Maybe you might use it in intentional service to someone who is less fortunate than you. But however you use it may you take comfort in the fact that Jesus has given you His peace through the power of the Holy Spirit and we don’t have to give into the pressure that comes from the exhaustive amount of media that comes our way. God has called you to be His disciple right where you are. Now go, breathe deep in The Spirit and see how God will use you to bring the Kingdom of God in your own backyard.


off kilter

I am admittedly a creature of habit. I know that for many of you who have known me over the years this may come as a bit of a surprise. But, ask my wife and she will definitely confirm this fact. I love my routines. That doesn’t mean that I can’t break away from the norm from time to time, but just that I’d rather do things a certain way day in and day out. I guess it’s more of a framework than a schedule. I like for things to fit my general framework. So in any given week my Mondays will be reflexive of other Mondays and the list goes on. Now this week, we took a couple of days to commute to Austin for a District Education event and I find myself now on Thursday and completely out of it (this perhaps could maybe have something to do with 17+ combined hours of sitting in class or driving over the last two days, but I digress). How did I get to be so dependent on this framework? Why is it that I find myself so rattled after this change?

There is this passage towards the end of Jesus life in the gospels where the disciples find everything changing. Now I don’t want to compare my off kilter schedule to the disciples predicament in this passage, but I think there is truth to be found here. Jesus has had a final meal with the disciples, they are groggy and he asks them to pray with him. Let’s put this into perspective even further. They had come to the city to celebrate Passover. This was something they knew very well and more than likely had even done with Jesus twice before. But this time something is different. He consecrates and celebrates the meal differently. He washes their feet. And then he drags them out into the garden to pray with him. Multiple times they find themselves out of their element and even falling asleep and Jesus says this to them, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Matthew 26:41 The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Today I have been reminded of my mortality. A two day road trip combined with a compromised immune systems (you should see the stuff we are sharing in our house) along with a schedule that is off the norm and you have an Arp who is feeling very mortal. I love Jesus’ reminder to us though. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation”. When we are off kilter or when we are out of balance it is easy to fall short of God’s best for us. But He doesn’t say try harder. He doesn’t say to power through. What does He say? Watch and pray. Step back out of your situation, see what is going on around you and lean into me. May these be words of comfort for you today. Whether you are full on in your routine and schedule or you find yourself a bit off kilter today, there is always room for us to watch and pray.


garden perspective

It’s Maundy Thursday. This is the day in the Christian Calendar that we set aside to commemorate and remember the Last Supper. This is a beautiful part of the Passion story and I love for our focus to be on the remembrance of Jesus’ last meal with his disciples. But my focus always seems to drift towards his final moments with them instead. The last moments that Jesus spent with those he shared life with in his pre-resurrection state were spent in a garden, Gethsemane to be precise. In that moment Jesus encourages his disciples to watch and pray with him. He specifically calls Peter, James and John to watch and pray more closely with Him only to find them sleeping three times. During the second of these interactions Jesus utters this phrase, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” – Mark 14:38. And I’ve always read this as Jesus chastising/correcting His disciples, but what if it was just as much a reflection of His own struggle?

This is one of those unique passages in scripture where we struggle with our Trinitarian theology. We, and when I say we, I am referring to those who claim Jesus as Lord, believe and affirm through our creeds that God is three in one. Yet when it comes to the passion and last moments of Jesus’ life we often struggle with reconciling God in flesh. In fact, in the garden we find Jesus praying for the cup to pass from Him while in conversation with the Divine life. What if this request, this struggle, this agony was born out of Jesus humanity versus His Divinity i.e. the Spirit is willing but the Flesh is weak? It at least could give us new eyes into Jesus struggles up until the very end. ‘Am I ready for this cup?’ ‘Have I done all I needed to do?’ ‘Will they understand what is about to take place?’

I think sometimes that those of us on our Christian journey need to gain perspective as to where we each are along the way (I don’t think it’s coincidental that our Faith is sometimes called The Way). Some of us are in the prime of our ministry. We find ourselves consumed with spreading the gospel and sharing the Kingdom in all that we do. Some of us have yet to be Baptized and our ministry has not yet begun. Some of us find ourselves in the Garden. We have given our life to the church and to God’s Kingdom and now we know what is ahead, but are we ready? I guess I say all this to say that although we may be in differing perspectives in our ministry we are all still on the same journey. And even though our perspectives may be different we are all still called to love and support each other regardless of that stage. And our perspective ultimately should never effect the way we act towards those on the journey as well as those yet to begin, because our perspective doesn’t change our calling.

So today, as you remember our Lord and Savior in His final stage, may you be cognizant of your own stage and know that God still calls us along The Way to be ambassadors of reconciliation to those around us.


%d bloggers like this: