Canaan’s Rest represents a quiet place “set apart” for the purpose of hearing God's voice, growing in intimacy with the Lord, and being renewed in soul and spirit.

Month: March 2011 (Page 1 of 4)

Like a Weaned Child

The psalmist talks of our soul being like a weaned child within us. “My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me.  But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psalms 131:1-2).  I thought of this passage as I was preparing for a devotion the I am giving this Saturday.  I want to get a short testimony of how I finally have begun to understand what it is to have my soul be more like a weaned child.  A weaned child is, of course, a content and satisfied child, looking into the eyes of a mother, while resting in her arms. I am learning to come to rest in the presence of the Father.

We men certainly have a more difficult time visualizing the reality of our soul being like a weaned child.  But there is much to learn from this metaphor of the soul.  I want to quote a 17th century Lutheran mystic named Gerhard Tersteegen in this regard.  “The mind of God and the light of God do not come in from outside.  They do not borrow their certainty and strength from our minds or our senses.  They make themselves know in the heart’s core and have both energy and certainty in themselves, although these become darkened and disappear when the soul begins to search after clear certainty in her depths.  So do not go out so much into reflections.  Do not seek merely by reasoned, external methods to find sure foundations, but close your eyes like a child and confide yourself to the hidden being who is so near to you inwardly”

I realize this is a rather long quote.  I share this quote because it has a history with me.  As I share my testimony, I will share about a rather dark time in my life over 10 years ago.  I first read this quote from Tersteegen in this darkness.  At that time it brought me comfort.  Back then I was only beginning to grasp what Tersteegan was attempting to share.  I started to visualize myself as a child, who could rest in the Father’s love.  I know that I was spending to much time simply going around and around in my mind, trying to come to peace withmy circumstances and myself.  I held unto the truththat the mind of God and the light of God were already within me in my “heart’s core.”  I was learning to simply trust that God would take care of my circumstances, without my having to worry and be filled with doubt.

Men, I can not stress how important it is for us to practice focusing our inner eye on the love of our heavenly Father.  Picture Jesus with you, bringing you into the presence of your heavenly Father.  This is the work of the Spirit united with your spirit.  You can learn to rest in his care and love for you.  As men we are naturally “wired” to climb up into our “control tower” and try to navigate our journey.  There will be times when this is impossible.  It will cause you to get on “worry and fear” wagon.  By simple trust, stop the wagon and practice the posture of a child looking trustingly upon your heavenly Father. 

Take to heart these encouraging words from The Message.  “Here’s want I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God.  Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage.  The focus will shift from you to God and you will being to sense his grace” (Matt. 6:6

April 1st

Devotions based on Trevor Hudson’s book, Discovering our Spiritual Identity

As God’s children we are in an intense spiritual battle and we must recognize the dark forces that oppose us while knowing that in Christ they are already defeated. C.S. Lewis said there are two errors that we must guard against. One is to disbelieve in the devils’ existence and the other is to believe and feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. Jesus engaged the powers of evil head-on. In His death, Jesus absorbed all the evil into himself with the vulnerability of self-giving love. That love cannot be stopped by all the powers of evil for His resurrection proclaims victory over all evil.  As we deal with the evil in our own lives we need to celebrate the Easter message that evil will not ultimately triumph!
We must first face and acknowledge our evil tendencies and see ourselves as we really are. Confessing our selfishness and self-centeredness can be painful but it will put us in the inner position to receive help from the  Lord. We can turn to Him and ask for His empowering presence.  We need help from beyond ourselves. Sometimes when the struggle is great we may need a soul-friend to share the battle. “Allowing faithful friends to know how we are tempted not only decreases our spiritual aloneness, it opens our lives to vital life-giving resources of the Spirit.”

March 31st

Devotions based on Trevor Hudson’s book, Discovering our Spiritual Identity

When we pray we need to be honest before God, and not just say what we think God wants to hear. We must come warts and all and not say who we should be or who we could be.  We are to ask for what we really need for this puts us in touch with who we really are and moves us beyond pretense. Then we will find that God encounters us at our deepest need. It is so good when we can acknowledge our feelings, even our angry feelings. If we ignore them a split will appear in our praying and living: a split between our conscious relationship with God and what we are experiencing in our emotional world. “Owning and expressing our feelings to the God who came in the flesh helps us to live fully and maturely.”

When we neglect to do this, it has a draining and depressing effect on us.  Let us be real before God and others and we will find greater intimacy with Him and growth in our self- knowledge.

The author also suggests praying the Psalms as it trains us how to speak to God and to confess our secrets. The Lord’s Prayer also gives us a framework for communicating with Him and draws us into intimacy.

March 30th

Devotions from Trevor Hudson’s book, Discovering our Spiritual Identity

Our God who speaks to us, is also our God who listens to us when we speak. We are heard…everything we say, every sigh we make, every cry and groan. Everything is heard by our listening God. Talking with our God who listens has life-changing consequences. First it brings us into an intimate relationship with Him as we share our hearts. It transforms us as the power of the Spirit changes our character to be more like Him. Secondly as we speak openly to God, we come to know ourselves. As we take off our masks and acknowledge even our dark side, our self-knowledge increases.  We discover that as we share our broken selves with Him, He draws us deeper into His love and grace. Thirdly, as we talk with God, it changes the way we relate to others. Our self-centered hearts begin to care for others with greater concern.  We must come to God truthfully and speak from our inner depths. It will not diminish our Belovedness and we deeply know that we matter!!

March 29th

Devotions based on Trevor Hudson’s book, Discovering our Spiritual Identity

It is good to offer up our daily work to God, whether it be preaching a sermon or doing the dishes. “So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.” I Cor. 10:31.  The ordinary is made holy when we resolve to do everything for God. Nothing is too trivial or mundane. To do everything for God is to put our whole hearts into what ever we are doing at the present moment. Just imagine the difference it would make in our lives if we lived wholeheartedly. I know so often I am doing one thing but thinking of another… mostly what needs to be done next. That is half- hearted living.   But it is better to concentrate on the task at hand and be fully present. Let us consciously welcome Him into every new activity before we begin it.  I think if we do, we will have a different attitude and we will sense the sacredness of the now-moment . Whenever we find we have disengaged from the present moment we can just ask Him for help to put our preoccupations aside and be present. I want to do this more.

March 28

Devotions based on Trevor Hudson’s book, Discovering our Spiritual Identity

We are made more aware of God’s presence when we choose to be constantly thankful. In the Word we are told to be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances. I Thess. 5:16-18. Gratitude is a choice. In whatever circumstances we are in, we are given the freedom to choose our response. Instead of saying, why did this happen to me, we can ask, What is there to be thankful for that we can use in constructing a new future?  The example given is of a pastor whose daughter died at the age of 10. He could have allowed this tragedy to make him bitter and despairing. But he chose to think of his daughter as a gift given by God and be thankful for each of those 10 years he had her. He chose the way of gratitude.

Let us focus is on the positive. Gratitude is not some duty it is a response to the sheer giftedness of our lives. What do we have that has not ultimately been given? Let us not take things for granted. Let our posture towards life not be one of grabbing and demanding but one of receiving and celebrating. It is good to pause during our day to give thanks to God for every sign of His goodness.

March 26th

Devotions based on Trevor Hudson’s book, Discovering our Spiritual Identity

Sometimes we think the secular and sacred are separated in our lives but God’s living presence pervades all of our life and experiences. We can train ourselves to be aware of His presence in the present moment as we learn to turn our minds toward Christ, remain constantly thankful, and do everything we do for God. There is no time in our lives when God is not actively loving us. His transforming love radiates towards us in every single moment and experience of our lives. Not every experience we have appears to be a sacrament of God’s loving presence when we are suffering. We may think He has forsaken us. But even when we go through hard times we have the promise of the kingdom of heaven which is only partially experienced now but fully experienced beyond the dimensions of our present world. We have the story of Stephen who when he was being killed, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God. 
We can learn to direct our minds towards the Lord by frequently affirming the closeness of His presence with us whereever we are. Sometimes it helps to just repeat the name of Jesus, say a short prayer, or pause for a period of silence during the day. We have frequent lapses of forgetting so it helps to be made more aware that He is right here with us right now!

March 25th

Devotions based on Trevor Hudson’s book, Discovering our Spiritual Identity

We all have a personal calling but it is not only for our sake but points our hearts towards our neighbor as well. Often we have feelings of resistance towards our calling. We may make excuses  thinking I am a nobody, I don’t know enough about God, what happens if I fail, I don’t have what it takes, or maybe someone else can do it better. But our Father who calls us will also empower us and strengthen us. He also sends others to encourage us and confirm His gifts in our lives. Personal calls do not come in stereotyped and standardized categories. They show the infinite creativity of our creator. Sometimes our personal calling and our daily job coincide and we are paid for doing what we believe God has called us to do. Other times our calling is pursued outside our work hours. The author is a pastor and gets paid for doing what his job description is as well as His calling. But all personal callings involve living from the inside out. “It is responding to the inner promptings of the Spirit, expressing the unique essence of who we are and giving ourselves away in some particular way that enriches the lives of others.”
Let us remember we are called into being before we are called into doing. Our callings are discovered as we are in relationship to Him in greater intimacy.  Let us follow our hearts and experience what He has for us.

Anger and Grief in the Church

Ronald Rolheiser, a Catholic spiritual director has warned that there is a “gender alienation” in the church.  According to Rolheiser this alienation is expressed in anger and grief.  The anger is expressive more among the women, while the grief is more expressive of the men.  The reason for this anger and grief is due to woman being alientated from the structures of the church, while menare alienated from the soul of the church. “Among the many things it (the anger and grief) suggest,” observes Rolheiser, “is that in Western Christianity today the structure is masculine, while the soul is feminine.  This creates problems and also suggests that the solution to the issue of gender alienation is extremely complex.”   

My spiritual journey has been mostly in the Lutheran church.  In these latter years I have had more contact with Catholics, especially Catholic women.  I definitely sense this anger among them.  I don’t sense as much anger among protestant women.  But I do believe that there is a patriarchal tendency in protestantism that women have a right to react against.  I have to confess that in my early years as a pastor I was definitely guilty of  being part of the problem.  It was evidenced in my marriage.  I have learned to see things differently.  But it took some time.  I wonder if the faithful, sincere spiritual women in our churches have been hindered from speaking what is in their hearts, because they do not think that they have “a voice.”  Women need to have their voices heard without feeling guilty about being “rebellious.”  I for one have to confess my immature fear in the past of  “strong” women. 

On the other hand, I know first hand of the “grief” in the hearts of men.  I do believe that the church often has a more feminine tone because the women do the teaching and nurturing of the children. They seem to be the ones who pray and teach bible studies.  Every church has an organized women group.  Men are just not as involved in the spiritual life of the church. It is hard to organize a men group, especially for prayer and study.  So the Church takes on a feminine spirit.  Men have come to believe that church is not a place where they can be themselves.  They are not able to express their faith as articulately as women.  They would rather be doing then praying.  There are few male voices, who can be mentor to call young men out of their “spiritual slumber.”

Listen again to Rolheiser, “The problem is not that men are more religious or irreligious than woman, it is rather that, within Christianity in the Western world, men have a spiritual inferiority complex….and this wound is further exacerbated by the fact that Christianity, for the main part, has taken on a female soul.”  If Roheiser is even partly accurate in his assessment of the church, then we have some issues of alienation between male and female to be addressed in the church. I would suggest that we men need to take the lead.  Our demeanor should be that of our Lord.  “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but make himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant..” (Phil 2:5-6a)

What would this look like in the church?  Let me be brief, as I speak from personal experience.  First, men need to become secure in knowing they are God’s beloved.  Men have to be comfortable with their masculine soul.  Second, men need to learn how to listening to “the voice” of the women in the church.  Thirdly, men need to lead by example, in being a servant to women, especially to the hurts they carry from the patriarchal past.  Finally, men need to humbly see and appreciate the tremendous gift that women are in the church and the great sacrifices they have made as wives,  moms, grandmothers and workers in the church.  They have nurtured the spiritual life of the church far more then we men are willing to admit.  So let’s be men who honor the women in our midst, by treating them with dignity and respect.

March 24th

Devotions based on Trevor Hudson’s book, Discovering our Spiritual Identity

Each one of us has a unique assignment on this earth, a personal calling.  As Mother Teresa said, “I was not called to be successful, but faithful. Each one of us has something beautiful to do for God.”  The author  invites into a 3 fold vocation:  to become the person God wants us to be, to care for those closest to us as He has loved us, and to participate in Gods’ kingdom dream for a healed and healing society. I Cor. 7:17 says we are to lead the life the Lord has assigned us, to which God has called us. God sends every person into the world with a special message to deliver, a song to sing for others, with a special act of love to give. No one else can speak our message or sing our song, or offer our act of love.  As we discern this calling our lives are nourished as well as others. God’s call will never diminish or restrict our lives but releases us into real fulfillment. Isn’t it wonderful when we know we are doing what we are created for.and becoming the person He wants us to be?

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