Category Archives: Christ

Is chocolate filling my God-shaped hole?

Biscoff Gourmet

WARNING: Like any good chocolate–which contains 60% cocoa–this post contains 60% tongue-in-cheek humor, and has been produced from a place they may be associated with nutz nuts.

So, about Chocolate…
Recently, I’ve asked myself the questions, “Can I see God past my love of chocolate?” and “Am I stuffing chocolate into the so-called “God-shaped void” of my heart?”

It’s. not. so. simple.

First, we have to answer the questions: What is “the heart”? And does this heart “place” have a vacuum (missing spot, hole, etc)?

Okay. No. Let’s talk about the phrasing first.
This “God-shaped hole” phrase could be more viable, in the first place, if God were like a product, and would act predictably as such. If God were a pill, or a tool, or a consumable, then selling him as “the thing that fills us” would work a whole lot better. God could be like sliced bread, or an Apple product.

Don’t get me wrong, God actually is sold this way by folks each day. He’s promised as the only thing to be the perfect fit, the best boyfriend ever, or the one who (like a class president with a Mexican heritage), will “make your wildest dreams come true.”

But how about the brass tacks?
Like Snickers, does God satisfy?

Snickers Purchased Feb. 2005 in Atlanta, GA, USA

Image via Wikipedia

Well, to be honest, I’d have to say “yes”, “no”, and “sometimes”.
Optimally, yes, God does. God has the potential to, but I haven’t seen anyone able to really take him up on all his selling features, and be “satisfied” too consistently–especially during God’s silent times, or terribly rough periods of life. Personally, losing my dad made me feel particularly not satisfied by God. For a long time. This most likely has to do with spiritual immaturity, but I’ve lived long enough to see it as a typical human response.

Though God’s perfect, the reality of the situation brings to bear the bigger question, and probably more important question: What relationship DOES satisfy us? Or, is satisfaction even the point? I’m going to buck the popular belief and say, “No. It is not the point. The situation probably cannon come to resolution this way.”
How do you see it? Maybe I can be better enlightened.

Now, back to the first point: “What is the heart?” The common, and I will add contemporary, understanding of the heart has to do primarily with our emotions, affections, feelings, or loyalties. Do you agree? But, if we consider this meaning was not AT ALL a Biblical understanding of the word “heart,” a whole bunch of things can do a 180º, like K.I.T. in Knight Rider.

Heart, in Hebrew terms, was synonymous with the word “mind”, or the decision center of a person. “Heart” was considered fully tied to the choice of will. So, our phrase, “follow your heart” is a modern day example of the opposite connotation of one’s “heart” in the Bible. With the Greek language, the same understanding remains for the Hebrew understanding: The “heart” is we think of as “the mind”. All those verses, like “The heart is deceitful above all things, who can trust it…” Well, that is speaking about the mind, not that thing that “falls in love” or gets sentimental. WE are deceitful partial by nature and partially by a choice of will. That the blunt accuracy version of the topic.

With this in mind (unfortunate pun #1. Ugh sorry), is there even a “hole” to fill? Do any heart-type voids have more to do with desire, or something of a more fleeting variety? Weigh in on this, if you will. (Pardon unfortunate pun #2.)

In conclusion, can I come to the answer for “‘what chocolate is filling for me”?
No. Unless you allow “empty calories” or “once loose fitting jeans” for answers.

One more question:

Milk or Dark chocolate?

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Evangelicals and Lack of Tradition

This year, the Christian calendar begins November 28th. It is the Season of Advent.

Advent House

Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran and many mainline churches observe the Christian calendar. The topic for each Sunday is predictable. Scripture from the lectionary guides the themes, liturgy, sermon, art, and music of that particular time. Traditional? Yes. Useful? I do believe it is.

It provides congruence. Most Evangelical pastors are accustomed to, more or less, speaking about what’s been on their mind recently. This is carefully referred to as “what God has laid on their heart.” (And you’d be a fool to question the movement of the Spirit, right? Maybe a fool, or maybe a blasphemer…if you spoke your thoughts.)

In general, it’s not a terrible thing to follow the leading of the Spirit. (If that is truly what is happening. But, that’s another post entirely!) But does this unformatted contemporary formula help cinch together the Story of God, the Christian Story, and bring a cohesive message of the Gospel, in history and depth, in a palpably connected way? Or, is the shoot from the Holy hip often more of a “bang here and a bit there,” approach?


I’d like to hear your take on it?

I tend to think a healthy mix of several Christian traditions could be very spiritually useful in contemporary times. We are already malnourished on a sound bite way of life as is it.

Chaplain Mike, a one-time Southern Baptist preacher, who blogs at imonk does the whole topic much more justice than I can. I strongly encourage you to link to his specific post with the link at the bottom, if you’d like.

Witness this poignant quote found there:
(It really hit home with regards to my Christian church experiences.)

“Part of the problem is that evangelicals really don’t have traditions,” said Carter. “Instead, we have these fads that are built on the strengths and talents of individual leaders. … But a real tradition can be handed on to anyone, from generation to generation. It’s hard to hand these evangelical fads down like that, so it seems like we’re always starting over. It’s hard to build something that really lasts.”– Joe Carter as quoted by Terry Mattingly

My main resource for this post and a really helpful article is here at imonk. It is most helpful for Evangelicals, and I challenge you to consider a deeper appreciation for the Christian calendar year, starting this Sunday, November 28th.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday Meditation – Thanksgiving

Pa. 1942 Thanksgiving (creative commons)

Book of Common Prayer
A Litany of Thanksgiving
836    Thanksgivings


Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so
freely bestowed upon us.

For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and
sky and sea.
We thank you, Lord.

For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women,
revealing the image of Christ,
We thank you, Lord.

For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and
our friends,
We thank you, Lord.

For minds to think, and hearts to love, and hands to serve,
We thank you, Lord.

For health and strength to work, and leisure to rest and play,
We thank you, Lord.

For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering
and faithful in adversity,
We thank you, Lord.

For all valiant seekers after truth, liberty, and justice,
We thank you, Lord.

For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
We thank you, Lord.

Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and
promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;
To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the
Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

See also The General Thanksgiving on pages 58 and 101.
From the Book of Common Prayer online: here.

Guest Writer: Shane Tucker ‘Aesthetic Spirituality’

I invited Shane to post here, chiefly because I feel a kinship to Shane. The artist and the spiritual formation learner I am jives so nicely with Shane’s outlook, and what he does as his life’s work. Writers, artist, thinkers, creatives, musicians, and so forth bring vital perspective to Christian Spirituality, and walking with God. Shane tends to this group, which is not an easy task.

Shane Tucker

 

Who is SHANE TUCKER?
Shane lived in Ireland for eleven years with his wife, two daughters and son. Now, he serves as Creative Director for ‘Dreamers of the Day‘ [www.dreamtoday.org] – a network utilizing the arts, spiritual disciplines, evocative messengers, and symposiums to engage people in their journey with Christ. He is passionate about seeing people live into their purpose in life, and he finds applications for that as a ‘soul friend’ (spiritual director) via Soul Friend (www.ArtistSoulFriend.com). He can be reached via either website or at shane dot tucker at gmail dot com.

Please enjoy Shane’s post, and feel free to offer your insights, comments, or questions.

Aesthetic Spirituality
by Shane Tucker

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
-ThomasMerton

We have an innate quality to notice beauty at every turn. To know that something is ugly or unattractive we must, of course, know that true beauty exists . . and in some way, to have experienced it. We resonate most strongly with that which seems to offer wholeness or a sense of completeness to our lives. That resonance may also be experienced as a deep hunger. Seldom do we know ourselves well enough to be able to express those yearnings in a coherent fashion. Itʼs in those times we need a bridge – something enabling us to connect, to integrate disparate elements into a whole. . . into a sense of being whole.

Art – any method or medium of creativity – can often serve as this necessary bridge, this connection, between what we know and what we long or yearn to know. Art gives us the tools, the words, the motion to live into what we sense is already there, but as of yet remains unseen. In this sense, art itself is a means by which we find ourselves by moving beyond ourselves. Through art (the highest sort) we are transported into places and spaces where we can lose ourselves. Itʼs a gift to be fully present to, and fully absorbed into, a situation or individual where weʼve forgotten to be concerned with our own desires or even aware of our image before others. Iʼve had a few experiences like this directly and by extension.

One of those experiences occurred three summers ago while I was attending a festival of creativity in middle England. I sought out a band I wanted to become acquainted with and unexpectedly, during their set I was in continual awe. Through their skillful use of music and visual elements, I was caught up in the moment and I forgot myself. Classic. Iʼve had similar experiences standing on green, broad, bald hilltops around Ireland as I drank in the arresting landscape around me. Another example are Christmas mornings since my three children arrived on the scene. Experiencing the uninhibited enthusiasm and joy demonstrated by these little people as they open gifts and share their excitement with the family – these are moments of pure bliss.

In times such as these we are given the gift of losing ourselves . . more specifically, concern for ourselves. The end, however, is not the experience of forgetting oneself in beauty, wonder, and awe; or even that of knowing a deep resonance which affords us the equivalent of tonal tonic through lifeʼs journey. Itʼs knowing Him. I hear, see, touch, taste and feel the Creator in this God-saturated existence called life. Heʼs made Himself ever- present in the created order and ever-accessible. He has, in fact, painted Himself into the portrait, written Himself into the narrative and sung Himself into our lives – even into existence, in Jesus Christ. When we recognize His overtures of love, our moment is to respond whole-heartedly, in trust, recklessly abandoned. In His hands, we then become the artwork by which He invites others to lose and find themselves in Love.

“Those who want to save their lives will lose them. But those who lose their lives for me will find them.” – Jesus, Matthew 16:25

by Shane Tucker / Soul Friend (Spiritual Director) / www.ArtistSoulFriend.com

Thank you, Shane.

Can a Person Absolve your Sins? Drum roll please…

A penitent confessing his sins in the former L...

Image via Wikipedia (confessing to another)

About 500 years ago there was this spat. At the time, having your sins forgiven was a sort of pay as you go thing. It was a bit like a toll road.

The toll booth worker was the Priest. If you bought “indulgences” the Priest could better settle up your debt with God.

Handy little business model, especially when folks hope to avoid damnation, right?

This became rather upsetting. So these Reformer types started protesting. It was not so much to split from the Church, but to transform it–at first.

Of course, men can get pretty riled up about their new fantastic ideas (ever seen that?), and before anyone realized it, a huge split…others might say a heresy or rebellion… was cemented into place in history–forever changing the landscape of Christianity.

Spiritually speaking, some good was gained (and Catholics adjusted to these grievances by the 1960s with Vatican II), but as more and more people are beginning to realizing now, some very good and important things were lost because of going this route.

So, what is the real purpose of a priest, or priest-like figure? Is it necessary? Can absolution of sin come from a man in a white collar? What about a teenager in a crew neck? Or a lady with a scarf?

Drum roll, please…..

Oh!  Wait! Before, you start gathering firewood and a sturdy stake for my conflagration, please hear me out the entire way. (Then have at it; I’d like to hear from you.)

The I Timothy 2:5 “one mediator” verse is often used to underscore that Christ alone can forgive sins and be our mediator to God. It’s true. This was the mission of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth.

But Protestants have, by the over-reactive trailblazing of the Reformers, missed quite a bit of the spiritual benefits of what Jesus’ brother James talks about:

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

What is James saying…that confession and other believers’ prayers are powerful and effective against sin? Yes.

GASP.
Okay, not a total gasp. But how does this play out? You may wonder…

This confessing to each other is not the same as be able to actually take Jesus’ place (obviously). James shows us that confession to each other works. It does something important. God wants it to be done this way.

It absolves us (because God absolves us). So, it is true that we personally experience the relief of our guilt being removed. We experience, in real terms, the agency of God’s forgiveness of our guilt. Someone is there beside us, standing in the gap for us, so we can be reconciled more thoroughly, more completely than we can experience it otherwise. It is God’s work; and we are agents of his ministry.

These confessors  to whom we confess become a flesh and blood representation of God’s love that promotes gracious forgiveness and offers wholeness. It offers us freedom from guilt (felt guilt, and feeling or thinking as if Christ‘s work is not complete). It puts flesh on our spiritual justification.

It seems we can’t handle our sin on our own too well, at all.

We are sinful, and it’s not a private matter.

Just confessing to God, and keeping our mistakes and sin to ourselves, is not the recommendation and requirement of Christ’s disciples.

The Community of God (i.e. the Church; our brothers and sisters in the Lord) plays a vital role in our spiritual growth and growth in grace. Confession ushers in that felt healing of the sin and guilt which weigh us down, and disables us.

Our sin is a rejection of community (aka The Bride of Christ) and an act of selfishness.

Our sin is a destructive thing. Socially and spiritually destructive.

Confession and absolution, (the kind you might say/declare out loud to another person) restore us at a core level. To ourselves, to God, and to community (aka The Bride of Christ).

In this way, we act not as God, but on God’s behalf. We minister.

It is simply true that he forgives us. We concur and offer social restoration, and remind the confessing one of God’s gracious work and love for us.

We minister to each other, on equal footing, and we may offer God’s grace to a brother or sister who cannot yet properly apprehend it. We can accept their confession and offer forgiveness, so we speak the Truth of God’s Kingdom into their life. We help set the captives free. (Not because God can’t do it without us, but because he wishes to use us this way.)

YES. We may say, “You have confessed, and you are forgiven. God absolves you. I, too, forgive you. Go in peace, and rest in his love.”

Please offer this to others. Ask for it on your behalf, too.

Will you comment on this topic, please? Your input is vital on this one. Thank you.

Motives of Goodness

 

charity workers

Take a moment and think about your last choice to do the right thing. It have been an internal motivation, but dig a bit deeper. What is behind that? What worldview?

Oswald Chambers describes how our view of authority, obedience, and the human spirit work together.

 

There is nothing miraculous or mysterious about the things we can explain. We control what we are able to explain, consequently it is only natural to seek an explanation for everything. It is not natural to obey, yet it is not necessarily sinful to disobey. There can be no real disobedience, nor any moral virtue in obedience, unless a person recognizes the higher authority of the one giving the orders. If this recognition does not exist, even the one giving the orders may view the other person’s disobedience as freedom. If one rules another by saying, “You must do this,” and, “You will do that,” he breaks the human spirit, making it unfit for God. A person is simply a slave for obeying, unless behind his obedience is the recognition of a holy God.

Oswald Chambers (click here for his full article)

Perhaps you can take just a moment to think of God’s holiness. And think of why you obey. What supports that? And what can improve your practical ethics.

I’d love to hear your ideas.

Man Cave: Of sanctuaries and retreats

(A Room Decoration and Demarcation)

It’s been said that the adult male human regularly needs some “down time” after a work day (a.k.a. Cave Time) to rejuvenate, find refreshment, recharge, gain clarity, and so on.

BUT-I doubt–a LOT–that “cave time” is truly a need reserved for the masculine of the species.

As many men will attest, females also enjoy and feel the need to retreat, and find refreshment. For some women it looks like taking a walk alone, reading a book while soaking in a bubble bath, or even not being alone–such as, sharing emotions with a trusted friend or ally.

Whatever this time looks like, it is a demarcated boundary of sanctuary, and vitally important to good mental health, and a balanced life–notwithstanding the spiritual benefits.

My husband doesn’t feel he needs a “den” or a man gym set up in the basement to get his man cave time in. He most enjoys a vigorous bike ride through the beautiful countryside on his road bike. I most like a variety of sanctuaries and refreshing conduits–both with others and without.

It’s not a weakness or a shame to realize you need space, and find your own space routinely (be it physical space, quite down time, mental respite, or beneficial time of social interaction). It is part of how we [all] live out our humanity fully, and how we are better able to best rejoin to loved ones, and others in our work or social lives in the most healthy way. If you don’t alreadly, encourage your loved ones to carve out demarcated time for this human need, as well as maintain your own. Seriously. Put in on the calendar or in your planner. It’s really that important. Be systematic so you stick with it, and keep your appointments with yourself. You will be surprised how much everyone will benefit.

Do you get the “cave time” you feel you need?

What does cave time look, or sound like for you?

Any body know Scripture that encourages ‘cave time’?

I look forward to your responses. Thanks.