This morning I was reading through some writings and prayers of Francis of Assisi. I enjoy entering into Francis’ journey of seeing God through His creation. A bird, a flowing stream, the sound of crickets at night…all these things centered the mind and heart of Francis on the sovereign God who created all things and gives life to all things. Here is a great prayer offering from Francis. Choose to slow, pause and be still and allow God to speak through his prayer.
You are holy,
O my Lord and only God,
mysterious and holy,
holy and amazing!
You are mighty, magnificent, transcendent.
You are all-powerful,
O most holy Creator,
beneficent ruler of heaven and earth.
You are manifold and One at the same time,
You are utterly wonderful.
You are wonderful, perfectly wonderful,
the very essence of all that is most wonderful,
O Lord God!
You are real and alive.
You are generosity and wisdom,
humility and patience,
safety and serenity,
ecstasy and delight.
You are righteousness and balance,
prosperity that surpasses all basic needs,
you are harmony and beauty.
You are my protector, guardian, and defender.
You are my strength.
You are my sustenance and my courage.
You are faith, hope, and charity.
You are my deepest tenderness.
You are everlasting vitality.
O supreme and marvelous Lord,
You are absolute mercy.
~St. Francis of Assisi
A famous anecdote was published in the New York Times in 1940 as an advertisement for Mortimer J Adler’s work “How To Read A Book.” As I read it again today I was reminded to read the Scriptures in a similar way. Slowly, anticipatorily and intimately. One of the most important aspects of reading Scripture is to begin seeing the details that submerge the text. When we read to quickly we miss most of what God is trying to say, and the transformative application stays shallow.
As you read this week, slow down, soak in the details, ask questions about the text as if you were a CNN reporter…let it all be absorbed into your mind and heart, or as you will read in a moment, read the Scriptures like you were reading your first love letters. Remember how you poured over the words over and over? Remember how no matter how many times you read it it still made your heart skip? If you’ll approach the Bible that way, you will definitely begin to see things you never saw before!
How To Read A Love Letter
This young man has just received his first love letter. He may read it three or four times, but he is just beginning. To read it as accurately as he would like would require several dictionaries and a good deal of close work with a few experts of etymology and philology.
However, he will do all right without them.
He will ponder over the exact shade of meaning of every word, every comma. She has headed the letter, “Dear John.” What, he asks himself, is the exact significance of those words? Did she refrain from saying “Dear-est” because she was bashful? Would “My Dear” have sounded too formal?
Maybe she would have said “Dear So-and-so” to anybody! A worried frown will now appear on his face. But it disappears as soon as he really gets to thinking about the first sentence. She certainly wouldn’t have written that to anybody!
And so he works his way through the letter, one moment perched blissfully on a cloud, the next moment huddled miserably behind an eight ball. It has started a hundred questions in his mind. He could quote it by heart. In fact, he will- to himself-for weeks to come.
To ponder…ruminate…chew…devour…savor…dwell in…and absorb are the only ways to read God’s Word if you want to experience more than an informational type reading.
In my book Sacred Space, one chapter is dedicated to his pursuit. Read the chapter titled “Sacred Words” and there you will find some more tools to learn how to allow God’s word deeper into your soul!
Great thought from “Master Leaders”, by Barna:
“You see a leader is the person who pursues noble goals with such intensity that others are drawn to those goals. Leadership is taking people where they are not already going. It is about redefining the possible…
I have come to understand that leadership is different from governance. Governance is the process whereby minimums are established. In government, the law is passed, and it sets the minimum threshold for activity. If you don’t exceed that threshold, you are the subject of impositions and mandates. Leadership is different from governance because it doesn’t establish the lowest and least that is acceptable, but it inspires people to their highest and best. Whereas governance operates on the basis of mandates, imposition, punishment, and things like that, leadership operates on the basis of models. The outcome of governance is the establishment of a floor. The outcome of leadership is people operating at their highest and best.”
This really comes down to a difference between managing and inspiring. The manager will always manage lower level outcomes whereas the one who inspires can see the impossible become reality.
Management focuses on rules, regulations and status quo, and receives exactly that. The one who inspires focuses on potentiality and shattering the status quo.
The difference can also be seen in the kinds of questions these two leaders ask:
The manager asks, “How do “I” maintain control and get a task accomplished with the least amount of trouble?”
The visionary leader asks, “What have “we” never tried before?”
Managers tend to focus on self, Visionaries/inspirers focus on the team. Both are needed, but an organization with a manager in the lead role will limit it’s potential.
Great leadership is about connecting people to each other and a preferred future that is worthy of pursuit.
On many occasions I have asked people what they believe is the most important factor in moving towards success, reaching goals, and accomplishments. I have received many answers like, “luck…money…training…knowing the right people…and even God.” Those are all great answers, but in my experience there is one thing that is commonly found in the men and women who achieve much and that is the state of their “attitude.”
Thomas Jefferson noted:
I agree with Jefferson. A persons attitude greatly affects his beliefs, choices, and the way he/she see themselves and the world. I have often said, “Give me a person with a positive attitude and a strong purpose and passion and I can give them the tools to do anything…but if you give me a person who has all the education and tools but lacks passion, purpose and a positive attitude, there is not much I can do.”
Bad attitudes sink teams…Good attitudes encourage teams…
Bad attitudes destroy hope…Good attitudes believe in something bigger…
Bad attitudes never see the potential…Good attitudes see the invisible…
Bad attitudes major in sarcasm…Good attitudes major in faith…
Bad attitudes keep people stuck…Good attitudes free people from limitations…
One of the problems facing us today is how our culture honors, elevates and seems to worship sarcasm and the negative. Most of the sitcoms and young adult shows center around curmudgeonly characters who view all things from a negative lens…merely watch the plethora of reality Tv options and you will experience a steady diet of self centered negativity. This is the primary programming language infusing the current and next generation, and that is worrisome.
If you struggle with the “gift” of sarcasm, or a negative filter…there are some things you can begin doing to reclaim the way you think.
1. Infuse your mind with the positive: This is so critical. Most of the data that people fill their minds with is negative. The news, TV shows, etc. Choosing to fill our minds and souls with good stuff is crucial. Read inspiring stories, faith stories, positive and spiritual quotes. Choose to watch media that is positive and limit the negative media assaults. Pray, meditate, ruminate, read sacred Scripture and books that elevate your soul. In short, become aware of the data that you are feeding your mind and soul with. You will become like the data you fuel yourself with.
2. Choose to be positive: This is where self-awareness is necessary. Most people are not very self aware of their emotions, attitudes or thoughts. Slowing down enough by practicing some regular times of solitude and silence will greatly help you become more self aware. As you become self aware, you will find that you have the option to make a choice about what you are thinking. When I find my mind in a negative or pessimistic state, I always stop and ask God to help me release those thoughts to Him as well as reinfuse my thoughts with positive ones that flow from who He is. In my mind and heart I say, “I choose to think positive God-thoughts.” This helps me identify the negative thought patterns and acknowledge that I don’t want them in my mind.
3. Practice Gratitude daily: This is so powerful! If you don’t have a cheap spiral notebook go out and get one today! It will be the best .79 cents you have ever spent. Once you have it, find a spot in your day to stop and simply write even one thing that you are grateful for. Even the fact that you have a notebook and a pen and are able to write is something to be thankful for! The more you invest in looking for the things to be grateful for and writing them down, the more you will experience a growing sense of thankfulness for life.
4. Limit the time you spend with negative people: This one is a bit harder because some of the negative people in your life are probably family and friends. If that is the case for you, note how much time you spend with those who are negative, and then invest more time to be around people who have a positive attitude and will expand your soul. The adage that you become like the people you hang out with is true. So pay attention to the thoughts, beliefs and things people say. As you become aware of the attitudes of the people around you, the better you will be able to make decisions about the time you spend with them.
5. Choose to smile: This might seem trivial but it really isn’t. Right now, right where you are at, stop….take a deep breath in and out and then plant a big ol’ smile on your face! Come on just do it…can you feel how it begins to change how you feel and see things…it is really hard to be mad, angry, bitter or negative when you are sporting a big smile. Throughout your day as you practice self-awareness, make the choice to smile big…it will flood your soul with better feelings and thoughts which will help with your attitude.
Here are some great quotes on attitude to start reprogramming your thought life with!
If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. ~Maya Angelou
When you pray for anyone you tend to modify your personal attitude toward him. ~Norman Vincent Peale
Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way. ~Viktor E. Frankl
We cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. ~Charles R. Swindoll
Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude. ~Zig Ziglar
Success or failure depends more upon attitude than upon capacity successful men act as though they have accomplished or are enjoying something. Soon it becomes a reality. Act, look, feel successful, conduct yourself accordingly, and you will be amazed at the positive results. ~William James
Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees. ~Victor Hugo
Life is a shipwreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats. ~Voltaire
A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely. ~Roald Dahl
You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf. ~Jon Kabat-Zinn
I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet. ~Mahatma Gandhi
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Philippians 2:5
God called us to do a lot of things for Him…but He never called us to burnout on ministry.
As I look around me I am overwhelmed by the variety of things we are pursuing. Things like: The perfect house…the right career…the right guy or girl…escape from life’s realities through books, film, poetry…
We pursue justice…vacations…accumulating stuff and things…the American dream…passions…health goals…life goals… financial goals…pleasure…money…power and control…recognition…family and independence…
We are tired and weary from the elusive pursuit, yet every day we get up and the race begins all over again.
What are you chasing after…who are you becoming?
The reason this is an important question to ponder and ruminate upon is because we become like the thing we pursue. The things that get our time, energy and focus are what we slowly shape-shift into becoming. Generally, the things we pursue are not actually what we truly desire, there is something deeper, but we have invested so little time into our souls that we are deaf to her cry. Out the soul’s deepest longings are desires that would bring about life, beauty and joy.
The soul is timid, powerful but timid. The energy-draining-crashing-around we exhibit as we pursue something generally causes the soul to stay in the shadows, waiting for a quieter moment…but the moment passes us by as the volume of life drowns out the soul’s whisper.
Psalm 34:14 in the Amplified translation notes:
“Depart from evil and do good; seek, inquire for, and crave peace and pursue (go after) it!”
Interesting…I wonder what our world would be like if instead of pursuing global-economic primacy nations instead pursued peace. I wonder what would happen in our neighborhoods if instead of one-upping the Jones’ we chose peace and received contentment. I wonder what our soul would sing if we chose to live a lifestyle that pursued peace and not all the stuff and things that we think will bring us peace.
King David was a man that longed for God’s peace yet lived a life where peace was as tangible as a steak at a Vegan seminar. Wars, subterfuge, marital conflict, adultery, betrayal and constant criticism nipped his heels daily. Yet his words seem to lock in on something beyond…something fascinating…something beautiful…something his soul was crying out for: Seek after…inquire for…and crave peace…then by all means make that your pursuit!
The greatest gift God has given me is an otherworldly saturation of peace in the midst of storms. A feeling so powerful and so real that I have wondered what it was, where it came from… and then, I pray it will never leave. It is more than peace though…it is God’s own Spirit unleashed in our soul causing her to sing in such a way that all those other pursuits fade on the sidelines of life.
To pursue peace is to become peace. Your presence will affect the people around you. Your countenance will be a calming reality and a contagious morsel. Your eyes will radiate a sense of God’s power and presence that is beyond the normal human pursuit.
You see, when we pursue peace and embrace it we are allowing God’s Spirit access to the control center of our life. As The Spirit slowly begins to lead us, there is something forming, growing, expanding and bringing even more peace with it and that is the very life of Christ Himself. The Spirit’s role is to form the living Christ in us by faith.
Jesus was called the prince of peace…the bringer of peace…so to pursue peace is to pursue the author and embodiment of peace, Jesus.
When we run around trying to experience a feeling we never quite get there because peace isn’t a feeling, it’s a person.
Let’s choose to pursue Peace at work; at home; in our communities of faith; in our storms; in our goals and in our soul.
Jesus said it this way:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
Jesus gives us peace by giving us Himself…no formula…no hoops to jump through…no major clean up in order to deserve it. No, He offers us His peace in and of Himself…to hold Him is to have peace…Isaiah said the the punishment that brought us peace was taken on by Jesus. (Isaiah 53:5).
May you be fascinated by Him this week, and may you experience peace as you pursue it in the face of the Messiah.