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Archive for April, 2008

In light of my previous post, today’s New Testament reading from the Daily Office was timely. It’s from Colossians 1:9-14:

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

The words of St. Paul are so loving and encouraging. You feel his shepherd heart for his people. It’s easy to miss what he’s not saying. St. Paul says, “May you be strengthened with all power! This power is not for conquest or self preservation or victory. It’s a power that supplies endurance and patience with joy! Endurance and patience are characteristics needed to withstand a measure of duress where folding, giving-in, or giving-up are all viable and possible options.

In the past few days and weeks, I’ve been discouraged. Without going into specifics, I’ve been burdened by questions of calling and hounded by intense feelings of inadequacy. I’ve felt dis-empowered. While I am clearly not in the same situation as the believers Colossi, I do have to remember that trials, however they come, are par for the course. They are standard fare for the child of God who is tested and tried and brought into a place of maturity. Speaking of maturity, I’ve just turned 35. Last Sunday was my birthday. 35. Wow. What can I say? I’m sure all of this plays into these recent themes. Is this where I thought I would be? No, not really. Is this where I wanted to be? No, not really. Who’s fault is this? Is it mine? Has my sin and struggle caused me to limp so slowly that I’ve missed some boat? I can’t believe that. And yet am I where I am supposed to be? If I have a pinky’s worth of faith, I have to believe that this is where I am supposed to be.

Back to Colossians 1 – this time, let’s see how Eugene reads it:

Be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works. We pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work. We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the long haul—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the glory-strength God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable and spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us.

God rescued us from dead-end alleys and dark dungeons. He’s set us up in the kingdom of the Son he loves so much, the Son who got us out of the pit we were in, got rid of the sins we were doomed to keep repeating.*

*Eugene H. Peterson, The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, Colo.: NavPress, 2002), Col 1:9-14.

Lord, I sense that for right now. For today. For this season. I am to be doing what I see my Father doing in the place I am in right now…today…for this season…. Gracious Father grant me the grace to work hard in your strength in your power. Help me to be patient. Help me Lord to trust.

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Let Go My Ego

lostI wrote to my rector recently that I feel as if I’ve lost something and I don’t know how to get it back. I’m still trying to figure out what I mean by this. If I were to boil things down, I feel like I’ve lost my confidence, my mojo, my swagger. It’s as if I’ve lost my footing on the surety that I’ve been called into pastoral ministry, that I can lead people spiritually and in the faith, that I can preach or teach, that I’m fit for functioning as clergy in the church. That I’m actually able to do what I thought I was called to do. It’s an interesting place. In many ways, I think this is a good place. It seems I’m at the end of my self. I was reading in the Orthodox Prayer Life recently about the importance of letting go of my ego. No not my eggo. My ego. It is one of the most important steps in the process divinization in the EO Church (aka sanctification). It makes sense. When you allow the sense of entitlement to dissipate and you permit the edge to come off of your need to have expectations satisfied then you can know humility. Then can you understand kenosis. Then can you live into a downward trajectory. It ain’t easy. But by God’s grace the last are made first and the first made last in His kingdom. When we are weak he is strong.

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Here’s a link that’s been circulating among my friends.

http://blog.beliefnet.com/blogalogue

It’s a blogalogue between UNC-CH’s Bart Ehrman and the Rt. Rev. N.T. Wright, Anglican Bishop of Durham. There’s good stuff here.

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“Dear God, I need a miracle – or at least I think I do. The situation has me completely overwhelmed. Instead of being lost in Your wonder, I’m lost in the pain and the fear of the future. I need Your help. Help me to simply call on You more often. Remind me that a life of bitter ingratitude is an empty life, and heal me of that proud bitteness. Give me a taste of Your glory, your wonder. The lions are roaring, and I am afraid. Please help me! Amen”
– from EJD, a pastor who is suffering from Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis

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Enduring, hanging on, keeping going is worthwhile work; there are many situations of stress or confrontation or harassment or provocation where that is the case. Hard physical work can be a relief from mental and spiritual endurance; and the work of healing the brokenhearted and the broken-spirited always has this as a vital component. So does the work, to which all of us some day should turn our hands, of holy dying, of dying as a positive act of achievement, extinguished but undefeated, like Jesus. On the cross it is the power of sin and death and hell which is broken and defeated, not the spirit of God and man in Jesus. ‘I was dead, and see, I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of [that is power over] Death and of Hades’ (Revelation 1:18).

Life Conquers Death

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