Holy Spirit’s Marvelous Ways

[In my January 1, 2015 post, I christened this the “Year of Learning” here on the blog. Each post, I’ll aim to share something recently discovered (or re-discovered) in the hope that you might add my learning to your own discoveries and make double-moves forward and upward this year!]

One strand of the past few years has been a desire and effort to increase my familiarity with the Holy Spirit. Taken wrong, that sentence could suggest that I’m doing a report on Him as subject. I know He wants different treatment than that! He wants intimate weaving of His life with mine, a mingling of deep with deep. Toward that end, there is much for this fellow to learn. Some of it comes through means far removed from traditional study; some of it involves books.

flame of loveFrom the realm of books, I recently finished a most enjoyable volume on the Holy Spirit. Clark Pinnock was a Canadian theologian and professor, who passed away in 2010, at the age of 73. I never met him, but from a distance, I’ve always loved his gracious spirit and pressing mind. Pinnock often took criticism for views that bordered on unorthodox, but he was always measured and loving in the questions that drove him and in his responses to such critique. I alluded to him back in a post last year as well.

“Flame of Love” is the book I recently completed. In one section, Pinnock gathered from other authors a summary of metaphors from Hildegard of Bingen, born in the 11th century. This list features some of the stream of thought that used to help Hildegard consider the role of the Holy Spirit.

“In a profusion of images, Hildegard of Bingen depicts Spirit in marvelous ways: as the life of creatures, as a burning fire that sparks, ignites, inflames and kindles our hearts; as a guide in the fog, a balm for wounds, a shining serenity and an overflowing fountain that spreads to all sides. Spirit is life, movement, color, radiance and a stillness that restores, bringing withered sticks and souls alive with the sap of life. The Spirit purifies, absolves, strengthens, heals, gathers the perplexed, seeks the lost, pours the juice of contrition into hardened hearts and plays music in the soul, melodies of praise and joy. The Spirit awakens mighty hope, blowing winds of renewal everywhere in creation.”

Who doesn’t need some of that?!

Surely every human being can find a phrase within that paragraph that stirs something within. Pinnock points out that this universality is one of the most wondrous things about the Spirit. Whereas the New Testament image of Jesus locks our focus — appropriately — on a specific man with a specific body in a specific time and a specific place, the Holy Spirit is described in Scripture in ways that unlock that specificity. His efforts are around-the-world and around-the-clock to bring redemption and renewal to all of Creation’s faces and facets. He is not far off from where you are this moment. He is incapable of being far off, and he is incapable of being uninvolved.

He is with you, and he is for you.

As God breathed His Spirit into dust-Adam and brought about entirely new dimensions of life, so He is eager to breathe into His people today. Seek Him, my friends. There is fresh breath for you.


The Disciple Scroll by Allan Rabinowitz

In 2010, I had the rich blessing to be part of a Down Ancient Paths experience led by my special friend Charles. During our trek through Syria, Jordan, and Israel, we were treated to some of the best guides in the Middle East.  

allanOn a level all his own was a fellow named Allan Rabinowitz. A storyteller extraordinaire, Allan could make mounds of rock come alive, as if ruins whispered their tales into his ears. He has avidly studied the land and the history of Israel for more than 25 years, even hiking large portions of the countryside, including all 1000 KM of the Israel Trail.

But when the “official” tour was done, what Allan really loved to talk about were the Old Testament prophets, specifically Jeremiah. In fact, if one listened long enough, mention might arise of a novel Allan had been lovingly labouring over for years–an historical exploration of the Prophet of Sorrow’s life, as seen through the eyes of his scribe Baruch.  Admiring both Allan’s expertise and passion on his subject matter–and dreaming of writing myself–I asked him questions about his writing process and his plan for publishing.

Upon returning home, I tucked into the back of my mind a note to keep an ear to the ground for Allan’s book down the road.  Re-discovering that note recently, I was pleasantly surprised to finally find Allan’s name on both Amazon (Kindle) and Smashwords (All Sorts of Formats). Apparently, Allan chose to E-publish, meaning you cannot purchase a bound and printed version of his work.

But don’t let that stop you!

(The flip-side is that you can own this treasure for under $4 and read it however you want.)

disciple scrollI just finished the novel and can vouch for its worth.  What a gem!  Even if you’ve never met Allan, you will quickly know that you are reading the work of a gifted storyteller. The days of Jerusalem’s demise at the hands of Babylon come to life in frightening ways, and the life of the prophet Jeremiah becomes vivid like never before as you work your way through these pages.

When I visited with Allan in 2010, he spoke of this novel as if it was the project of his life. So what happens when you take a gifted and passionate individual and then skim off the very best they have to offer over years of their life?

You get something like “The Disciple’s Scroll”.

I hope you will get it!

Coming Clean About Weakness

power-and-weaknessThe following comes from an e-book by Wes Yoder:

One of the most counter-intuitive statements our Lord ever made does not describe very well the day-to-day perspective of almost anyone I know: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” [2 Corinithians 12:9].

Now how about that? We spend our lives telling each other to focus on our strengths, to work in our core skill sets, to dance with the thing that brought us to the party, to perfect our brand, and to protect our image. This is not the beginning of an argument to tell you not to use your strengths, but it is to say [this:]

If you want to see the power of God at work in your life, you’ll have to quit hiding your weaknesses from people and from him — as though you can hide anything long enough to actually get it past God or even the people who know you.

[This teaching] really just means you have to be honest, to deal in truth rather than fiction. This is the requirement of Jesus that scares [the living daylights] out of most Christians.

YOUR TURN: How have you grasped the teaching of God’s power being made perfect in your weakness? What move might a person make today toward living more fully in such promised power?

A Sweet Touch on This Soul

brennan-manningJust over a month ago, Brennan Manning passed away. His was a life (and death) that rippled through those of countless ragamuffins around the globe.

Including me.

In my late teenaged years, I was handed the book “Abba’s Child” by a man I greatly admired. I admit to not completing it, as its message about a true self and false self fell a bit ahead of its time in my young life. A year or two later, I was stunned by the power of “The Ragamuffin Gospel” in describing God’s gracious love toward every one of us. To this day, that is one of the greatest books I’ve ever read.

Several years ago, I posted an audio recording of Brennan sharing a similarly themed message if you want to hear this old saint preaching with fire!

I confess unashamedly that the most vivid descriptions of grace that I have ever heard came through the lips of a recovered alcoholic Catholic priest that I never met.  Tributes to Brennan have filled the internet over the past month. Here are a couple you may wish to be aware of:

A moving excerpt from Manning’s 2011 memoir “All is Grace”.

Donald Miller offers his Reflections on Brennan Manning’s Wrestling Match with God.

Brennan, you were a gem, polished by the roughness of brokenness that lives in us and around us and birthed from the depths of God’s outrageous acceptance of such folks.  You were much loved by one Canadian prairie boy and by one Cosmic Father.


For Those Who Crave Peace

Our view of peace is too small.

peaceWe crave a stillness, a calm where no ripples disrupt.  Something inside us says that this is the goal of life, to arrive at this state: Where nothing further needs doing, where no further climbing remains. Labourers dream of retirement, travelers long for arrival, tomorrow’s promise pulls us through today’s pressure.

In 1658, Miguel de Molinos published a piece entitled, “Spiritual Guide Which Disentangles the Soul”. This Spanish priest eloquently expressed a fundamental task awaiting any who desire God:

“You ought to know that your soul is the center, habitation, and the kingdom of God. That therefore, in order that the sovereign King may rest on the throne of your soul, you should take pains to keep it clean, quiet, void, and peaceable; clean from guilt and defects; quiet from fears; void of sinful affections, desires, and thoughts; and peaceable in temptations and tribulations.”

This advice is hardly rocket science.

Yet it is critically necessary in any pursuit after spiritual vitality.

However, Molinos was aware of the struggle involved in this pursuit, of the failure that we will all taste in the caring for our souls.  To every seeker of God, he goes on to offer these words of comfort:

“Do not be upset or discouraged if you feel fainthearted, for He will return to quiet you, that He may still stir your heart. This divine Lord will fill you and rest in your soul, forming a rich throne of peace. He does this by means of internal recollection and through His heavenly grace, so that within your own heart, you may look for silence in the tumult, solitude in the crowd, light in the darkness, forgetfulness in trials, strength in weakness, courage in fear, resistance in the midst of temptation, peace in war, and quiet in tribulation.”

It is wondrous to consider that God is eager to remain and to reign within our deepest dimensions, spaces which we so struggle to dedicate to Him. Yet He works to grant us some measure of peace. Why? So that He might stir us.

There is a wonderful paradox here.

In our lives, the One who stills one storm is often the same One who summons the succeeding tremors. The One who rescues us from the fire ignites within us a greater blaze than any other. The One who frees us from life-stealing, low-level loves goes on to call us to love Him with a consuming affection.

“For he will return to quiet you, that he may still stir your heart.”

Seek peace for your souls today, friends.  Pursue it in every god-honouring way you can think of.  But do so with an awareness that God will grant it to you with the attached intention of forcefully stirring your heart.

Apparently, our view of peace is too small.

So go ahead and seek it today.  But seek peace with an awareness that the God who grants it will undoubtedly still your soul so that He might stir it mightily!

YOUR TURN: How have you pursued a peaceful soul? Have you a story of how God provided the peace you desired? YOUR COMMENTS MAKE THIS POST BETTER.

[You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or email, in the upper right corner of this page.]