Six-Pack (62)

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Six-Pack.

Having missed last week’s post, a small stockpiling of great material has begun. Let me skim a half-dozen off the top for sharing.

If six ever feels overwhelming, start with my two *Picks of the Week*, and move out from there.

For a steady stream of such links, follow me on Twitter to the right of this post.  Sharp quotes and solid articles are tweeted 3-4 times daily.

Today’s edition:

1) 20 Unusual Things 20 Successful People Do Every Day (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
For, Jeff Haden has compiled these intriguing bits. I love getting peeks into others’ processes for creativity or organization or life. To me, this stuff is fascinating. I especially appreciate Leo Widrich’s entry — I could get into that, though those around me likely want no part of it!

2) What Saint Paul Really Said About Slavery
Scot McKnight shares a brief excerpt from Sarah Ruden on this still-provocative topic.

3) Platt Wasn’t Enough for My Church
Andy Schmitz took over leadership of a church formerly led by David Platt… sort of. Here’s his take on the non-negotiable value of flesh-and-blood pastoring.

4) Seeking God, Finding Jesus
Nabeel Qureshi is the author of “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus”, and perhaps you should get to know him.

5) Twenty Years a Survior (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
The world recently marked the 20-year anniversary of Rwanda’s horrors. Many stories have been told. One you should hear is that of Clarisse Mukashumbusho, now living in London, Canada.

6) Are Mac Owners Really Cooler than PC Users?
Psychology Today picks at the famous commercials and their message.

May your week ahead be filled with life, as you seek the One from whom it flows!

leaveacommentYOUR TURN: Your input makes this post better!

  • Which link above was today’s best-of-the-best?
  • Why that one?

Direct others to the best of the bunch with a quick comment.

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Truth on Tap

One of God’s truest gifts to any of us is a stiff sip of realistic self-knowledge.

For Christians who embrace the Lenten season, there is a wilderness consciousness that takes hold, an active stepping into an environment–or at least a mindset–that strips away life’s non-essentials. Mirages in the desert often revolve around things we desperately need (ie: water or a place to rest). The Lenten “wilderness” experience often serves to strip away illusions of what we need, or even who we are.

Along these lines, Teresa of Avila had a favorite metaphor:

“The soul is like water in a glass: water looks very clear if the sun does not shine on it; but when the sun shines on it, it seems to be full of dust particles.”

waterIn Psalm 139, the writer celebrates God’s complete knowledge of each one of us. Yahweh is the One who has knit us together before any eye beheld us. He goes before us, comes behind us, and hovers around us. Even still, the psalmist–in the spirit of Teresa–closes by praying that God will search his deepest parts and unearth any offensive and life-stealing tendencies. There is an awareness of just how deep self-deception can go.

If prayer is a struggle, perhaps you have now discovered a rock-solid starting block from which to take your first strides.  Begin by pleading for purity of soul, for an inner substance that is whole and clear.  Ask the Revealer to provide you with vivid and truthful exposure of all that lies within you. Some will be surprising, some downright shocking. Parts of the experience will affirm you; others will infirm you.

Either way, “the truth shall set you free” is perhaps true first as it pertains to discovery about ourselves. At God’s pub, He’s got truth on tap.

And He’s happy to pour a pint for those who are seeking.

YOUR TURN: What has God revealed to you about yourself? Which revelations have been encouraging? Which have been humbling? How have any such revelations served as “truth that set you free”? Your input makes this post better!

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Lent is a Wilderness Season

Early in Luke’s gospel, he details the rise of John the Baptist’s public ministry.  His third chapter begins by rooting John in time by surrounding him with the “vital statistics” of his day:

1 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Most of these names mean little to today’s reader; most of these places are unknown. But in John’s (and Jesus’) day, these were the high rollers in the power centers. These were the figures writing the rules and making the waves.

And fascinatingly, God uses them as the background music for the scene that He is unfolding.

Into this time and place, God’s word arrived.

His message would inaugurate His move. And that word was delivered to a no-man in the no-man’s land: John in the wilderness.

Judean Wilderness

The wilderness of Scripture is the academy of the saints.

It was the scene of Moses’ leadership course in Midian, as Yahweh transformed an angry murderer into a surrendered deliverer. It was the venue for Israel’s forty-year shaping, which cost them an entire generation, on how to live as freed people in the Promised Land. It was also the setting for Jesus to be tested by the Adversary, ahead of his public ministry.

Luke depicts John the Baptist, also in the wilderness, seeking and listening.  The human eye can quickly glaze over at the vastness and blankness of the wilderness, and one small man in its midst can seem like dust.

Yet Luke, having sketched all the people and places where logic might expect Divinity to deliver His message, is explicit that this word is addressed to the simple one in the silent place: “The word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.”

Lent is a wilderness season.

It drives us into modes of reflection and recounting. We agree with God on the terms of full access that He might search us and freely reveal—even rebuke—whatever that He finds.  The wilderness, by its nature, is a refining environment. It swallows those who ill-equipped to dwell there. It silently pushes people toward precipices, where survival is uncertain.

Lent, by its nature, is the seeking of such an environment.  As did John, we place ourselves in a wilderness setting—via fasting or forgiving, reflecting or repenting—because we know that people who are at the ends of themselves, dwelling on the ends of the earth, are often those upon whom the life-giving word of God falls first.

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.

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