Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Doing the "Biblical" Thing

It's been a while since I have shared a cartoon from Naked Pastor or ASBO Jesus, but this one was  too good not to share.

Whenever the word 'biblical' is used as an adjective for a way of doing something, I am immediately reminded of the complex and confusing nature of the Bible. Regardless of what people might say, the Bible is just not simple. It isn't black and white. It isn't an easily-understood moral road map for life. It just isn't.

What does "biblical marriage" look like? Is it the polygamy of the Old Testament? Is it the complimentarianism of Paul? Is it the egalitarianism of Ruth?

What does "biblical church" look like? Is it the drunkenness and debauchery of the Corinthians? Is it the legalism of the Galatians? Is it the communalism of Jesus? Is it the socialism of Acts?

Being "biblical" just isn't as simple as it seems.

So can we simply agree that the Bible is challenging and confusing, beautiful and inspiring, yet difficult to live out? Can we simply agree that we can believe different things and behave in different ways and still love Jesus just as much as those with whom we disagree? And can we simply agree to to be civil and hospitable with one another as we all endeavor to live out the way of Jesus together, regardless of how our paths slightly diverge?

HT: Naked Pastor

Friday, October 19, 2012

Prayer is Happening

I am currently reading a beautiful and contextually appropriate book by Barbara Brown Taylor called An Alter in the World. Taylor helps the reader wrestle through how normal, everyday practices can be re-imagined as spiritual practices, which is incredibly helpful for me in my life as a stay-at-home parent. Near the end of the book she includes a chapter on the spiritual practice of prayer. Prayer, in the normal, religious sense, is always something with which I have struggled. But Taylor's definition of prayer is an eye-opening, life-giving, and freedom-producing way of thinking through this spiritual discipline. In this one brief description, she has finally put beautifully, eloquent words to what my heart and mind have been sensing for the past few years. Without further ado, I'll simply let her words speak for themselves.
" waking up to the presence of God no matter where I am or what I am doing. When I am fully alert to whatever or whoever is right in front of me; when I am electrically aware of the tremendous gift of being alive; when I am able to give myself wholly to the moment I am in, then I am in prayer. Prayer is happening, and it is not necessarily something that I am doing. God is happening, and I am lucky enough to know that I am in The Midst."
Beautiful. Simply beautiful.

This way of thinking about prayer has certainly become a liberating way of engaging with God and the world. No longer am I bound and oppressed by my inability or unwillingness to "pray right." No longer is a lack of quiet time or daily devotions loaded with guilt and shame. No longer is prayer about setting aside life for a moment of escape with God.

Instead, within this new paradigm, prayer is everywhere, always. A walk in my neighborhood becomes prayer. A meal with friends becomes prayer. A ride on the bus becomes prayer. A conversation with a stranger becomes prayer. As I open myself up to the ongoing goodness and revelation of God, I simultaneously open myself up to God's presence. God ceases to be some stagnant and static idol that I kneel before daily, but rather, is liberated to be living and active, a constant presence and not a summoned machine. Prayer plunges me into life with a minute-by-minute longing for engagement and connection, rather than pulling me out of worldly interaction for a manufactured moment of personal piety.

And finally, this is a practice of prayer that is, for me, unquestionably sustainable. By this I mean two things. First, this is a way of thinking about prayer that I can commit to on an ongoing and long-term basis. It is not the newest prayer fad that will dissolve into oblivion as quickly as it was commenced. It is a way of life, rather than a behavior. It is an identity rather than an action. And secondly, this way of thinking about prayer is sustainable in that it has actually sustained me. Engaging with the world in this way has actually produced more goodness and life, more vigor and passion, more grace and love. Rather than prayer being a hollow routine, this way of prayer has nurtured my soul. It has carried me in my moments of pain and weakness. It has assured me in my moments of doubt and questioning. It has spoken to me in my moments of silence. And it has been a dynamic process. Prayer has not happened. Prayer is happening.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ensnared Between Seasons

These trees spoke to me this morning. Perhaps on most days they are simply trees, not meant to convey any sort of message. But today, they are for me. Today, they tell stories. Today, they tell truth. These floral spires stand at a crossroad between seasons. One clings to the warmth and goodness and life of summer, while the other sings of a new season arriving, the winds of change that will assuredly bring the death of winter but will ultimately invite the renewed vigor of spring. They are trapped in the moment. They simultaneously cling to the past and long for the future.

And here I stand.

Both basking in the goodness of what has been and unsure of the future that approaches. Both fervently clinging to the safety of the known and completely curious about the promise of the unrevealed. Both profoundly content standing at the edge and incredibly inquisitive about the life that awaits if I have the courage to leap.

And here I stand.

I know not what to do.
Both are good. Both are bad.
Both are good and bad.
Both have beauty. Both have pain.
Both have promise. Both have gain.
Both are wrong. Both are right.
Both are easy. Both take fight.

And here I stand.

Ambiguous enough for you? I'll let you know if I come into any clarity.