Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Observing from a Distance



I'm enjoying reading two books about the Prodigal Son: Tim Keller's - "The Prodigal God" and Henri Nouwen's - "The Return of the Prodigal Son"

I've been been touched the most by how our Father wants to place His hands on us in comfort, not just have us be 'looking-on' as the Elder son, depicted in this marvelous compassionate painting above by Rembrandt (currently graces a wall at the Hermitage, St. Petersburg)!

The question that has been haunting my thinking is who am I in this story? For so long I thought I was the 'younger son,' but recently I've been gaining a new perspective... seeing myself more as the "elder son." While Nouwen's description of his life does not fully parallel mine, there are many aspects of his story that cause me to reflect... Do these quotes from "the Return of the Prodigal Son" speak to you? Pause and ask yourself, "who am I in this rich story?"

[Nouwen...] "...I am, indeed, the eldest child in my own family, ...[I've come] to see how I had lived a quite dutiful life. When I was six years old, I already wanted to become a priest and never changed my mind. I was born, baptized, confirmed, and ordained into the same church and had always been obedient to my parents, my teachers, my bishops, and my God. I had never turned away from home, never wasted my time and money on sensual pursuits, and had never gotten lost in "debauchery and drunkenness." For my entire life I had been quite responsible, traditional and home-bound. But, with all of that, I may in fact, have been just as lost as the younger son. I suddenly saw myself in a completely new way. I saw my jealousy, my anger, my touchiness, doggedness and sullenness, and, most of all, my subtle self-righteousness. I saw how much of a complainer I was and how much of my thinking and feeling was ridden with resentment. For a time it became impossible to see how I could ever have thought myself as the younger son. I was the elder son for sure, but just as lost as his younger brother, even though I had stayed "home" all my life."

"I had been working very hard on my father's farm, but had never fully tasted the joy of being at home. Instead of being grateful for all the privileges I had received, I had become a very resentful person: jealous of my younger brothers and sisters who had taken so many risks, and were so warmly welcomed back...."

"For hours I looked at the splendid drawings and paintings he [Rembrandt] created in the midst of all his setbacks, disillusionment, and grief, and I came to understand how from his brush there emerged the figure of a nearly blind old man holding his son in a gesture of all-forgiving compassion. One must have died many deaths and cried many tears to have painted a portrait of God in such humility."


The questions I've come to ask myself include: am I looking-on beholding the embrace and yet not feeling the hands; am I viewing at a distance and not feeling the warmth of the embrace; have I tried so hard and missed the full experience of acceptance within the arms of my Father? Our life is not meant to be lived out as a spectator. Our lives are meant to be full of the experience of unconditional love and acceptance... practically it can only come about through the relationship with the most remarkable "Father!"


Painting: The return of the prodigal son c.1662
Oil on canvas 262 x 206 cm
The Hermitage, St. Petersburg

http://www.artchive.com/viewer/z.html


Monday, August 24, 2009

What's Your Story?

Everyone has a story. Put another way, everyone’s life is a story. Our personal stories are important to consider. Too often we neglect our story, or try to capture it in very simple or trite phrases like, “I couldn’t be doing better.” Many times this is a diversion technique that is used to distract a person from getting to close too the real story that is being written in our lives. There is often a discomfort in relating what is really going on because we can’t quite figure out how what we are experiencing now fits into the big picture.

For many of us, we really don’t know what to say, when someone says, “how’s it going?” Do they really want not to know? Are they interested? And, then the cold chill rises within us because we really do not know what to say. We don’t know what to respond because we have never taken time to consider our story – this has been my case!

Take a moment and consider… each person is very unique, having passed through many special experiences like no one else on earth. Consider when you were born, to whom, what your parents were like – who was your Mom and who was your Dad? Consider what growing up was like, friends, school, what games did you play and who with? These are all parts of our stories. These environments and experiences all have meaning, they are not random scenes that all pile up forming ‘your life’s story.’

video

Both your story and mine have unique characters, surprising plot twists, central themes, tension and suspense, and deep significance. As we think about our lives we can quickly see that they are truer, filled with more laughs and pain and more exciting than the best fiction novel.

I’m setting aside some extra time these days to study and understand my life story. There has been an Author that has been directing our stories to go towards a very specific destination. I realize that the writer of my life does not want me to just settle back and not be aware of what has been written… nor for me to merely be a reader… he’s preparing me to co-author my future.

Notes:

1. The embedded video was produced for Olympus Pen - in celebration of their 50 years of being in business. The video, however, is far more than a commercial, it displays a life story that is unfolding with many twists and turns. Our life, while not including the same events, follows a similar path... I think it would be worthwhile to take time to consider your story. Your story is worthy of reading.
2. To read more about how to read your story, I recommend the following book: "To Be Told", by Dan B Allender, PHD



Sunday, April 12, 2009

Always-on...

Have you noticed how our society is moving away from “literary thought” and speeding towards “media guided thinking”? Our thoughts no longer get charged from something we read in the morning newspaper, a magazine, or a book that we could curl up with… no, our thoughts have become a jumbled smush of micro minutes (often Nano1 seconds) fluttering from one topic to another. Why is this?

The always-on world has become a set of handcuffs. I’m feeling deep concern about the loss of times to just “think” being replaced by reacting to the latest bit of information that the tone on my PDA is alerting me to. We are often too busy to take time to pause and even consider what is important.

Not only do we not think, the experiences that we are having right now are often not valued. Our world has become an always-on world. Our lack of focused attention has moved us to worry about what we’re missing, what else is going on simultaneously with what just might be more important than what we’re doing right now. Therefore, what we’re doing now is devalued because it might in time prove out to be not as important as something else that we could have done, so we’re caught not appreciating the moment because of what else might be happening.

Take a look at this three-minute clip of Renny Gleeson2 (found on TED), he talks about the ‘always-on world’ and the way we've learned to handle the constant thirst for the information flow that we are addicted to:



While I don't approve of some of Reeny's language, seen and heard in this clip, I don't think we can afford to miss the message being presented.... We as a society are addicted to the 'connected' need-more-information-now-streaming. We're 'always-on' and we don't have time for anything else, but to tragically grasp for more bytes of information to satiate our addiction.

A famous King of old once wrote: “I will remember the works of the Lord. Yes, I will remember the amazing things you did long ago! I will think about all you have done; I will reflect upon your deeds!3” Are we to advanced to stop and consider? There is much to learn from what has happened – can we still take time to ponder? That same King took time to ponder and then exclaimed: “O God, your deeds are extraordinary!4

I think it is time for us to unbuckle ourselves from all the 'speed' in the 'always-on' streaming and take some time to meditate as part of our Sojourn. When that famous King did that, he exclaimed, “May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.5

Along the way of My Sojourn, I've found the words of the song, 'Listen to our hearts' by Steven Curtis Chapman & Geoff Moore to go deeper and reflect thoughts in my heart - away from the busy 'always-on' world around me. Be extravagant, take some time, and listen to the words....



_______________________

1. Nano: The root comes from the Greek for dwarf. The prefix was formally adopted in the late 1940s to mean one-billionth (10-9) part, as in a nanometer. The construction had been floating around since the early part of the 20th century. Nano along now carries the connotation of the very small, typically on the nanometer scale. A bond between two carbon atoms is about 1/10 of a nanometer.
2.
Renny Gleeson: Busted! The sneaky moves of anti-social smartphone users
3. Psalms 77:11-12 (the King was David; 1023-971 BC
)
4. Psalms 77:13
5. Psalms 19:14





Monday, April 6, 2009

Moving Out

People have often viewed Christianity as open space defined by boundaries of rules traditions, and doctrine. As long as we stay in the space without climbing over the walls that define Christianity, we assume that we are good Christians. And while it is true that authentic Christianity has well-defined boundaries, authentic Christians do more than compliantly fill space. Christianity is more than a random racquetball experience of bouncing off walls as we are propelled through sanctified air by often-conflicting influences that try to direct our Christian experience…

While true followers acknowledge Christ as the strategic center, most of us stop short of that. We are quite satisfied to relate to Him; accept His liberation from hell; praise Him; find comfort, solace, and joy in Him; and be intrigued by Him. But few are bent toward following Him unconditionally. (1)



The words to the song
Brave, by Nichole Nordeman(2) continue this message:

The gate is wide
The road is paved in moderation
The crowd is kind and quick to pull you in
Welcome to the middle ground
You're safe and sound and
Until now it's where I've been

'Cause it's been fear that ties me down to everything
But it's been love, Your love, that cuts the strings

So long status quo
I think I just let go
You make me want to be brave
The way it always was
Is no longer good enough
You make me want to be brave (2)


Now is the time to make a move out of the ‘safe spot’ that makes us common, and move into the radical life-changing spot that can only be occupied by a life involved in radical reformation - into an unconditional follower. Others see the essence of such a life in the direction that we’re moving. Time to be brave and dive in!


_________________________
1. Following Christ, by Joseph Stowell
2. Lyrics to Brave by Nichole Nordeman
3.
Photo: Posted to Flicker July 06 - by Ray (rayphua)



Saturday, March 28, 2009

Forgiven

video

I have recently been placed in the dilemma of desiring to remain focused on having a faithful walk during my Sojourning, and at the same time being brought into keen awareness of the damaging impact of my failures as I’ve walked along life's journey. Looking back over several years I can clearly see that I have often been a factory, which turned out damaged goods. This should not be a surprise to me because when I first learned of a redemptive road available to me, at the same time with crystal clarity, I saw my deep need. A friend once passed on an article to me about one man's life (a true story that came out of World War II) that to this day speaks abundantly of the wonder of being truly freed from the load of past failure and sin….
(click on the link and let his story speak to you)


Thursday, March 26, 2009

The next step...


Blue
Originally uploaded by An Gobán Saor
From time to time along our sojourn we reach a point where the road does not seem to allow us to go further. We see what appears to be the end in front of us and we wonder where we go from there. It can be that way in projects and relationships and in just the living out of life. The key is to find the next step.

When our eyes are so much on ourselves finding the next step is very difficult. We often miss the next step because of our past experiences, our fears and concerns. There are times that our own good ideas hinder us from taking the next step forward.

There is a great example for us found in a man named Abraham. Abraham was called out of Ur (his home town) to go to a land where God wanted him. Interesting, Abraham was not told in advance where that place would be. God simply wanted him to walk by faith each day, trusting in His directing and leading. "Now the LORD said to Abram, Go out from your country, your relatives, and your father's household to the land that I will show you." (Genesis 12:1)

Even when the walk way seems to end in front of us, just walk to the end... there will be a way to continue your sojourn!