Tag Archive | formation

What Are You Pursuing?

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.

~Monty

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Empty Me…

I have just returned from leading a 3 day Sacred Space retreat. My mind all abuzz with the epiphanies the retreatants were having, the God-moves that took place in the quiet corners of people’s soul, and the rhythm of the Divine Hours being practiced by the monks at the Abbey that we experienced as we quietly slipped in and out of their practice… receiving something they had no idea they were giving.

This morning, as my spirit honed in on this particular prayer to breathe into my soul, it seemed to speak about all that God was doing in and through the men and women who were at Sacred Space…read and pray this slowly and ask the Spirit to illuminate the parts that your heart needs…

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Empty Me…

Gracious and Holy One,
Creator of all things
and of emptiness,
I come to you
full of much that clutters and distracts,
stifles and burdens me,
and makes me a burden to others.

Empty me now
of gnawing dissatisfactions,
of anxious imaginings,
of fretful preoccupations,
of nagging prejudices,
of old scores to settle,
and of the arrogance of being right.

Empty me
of the ways I unthinkingly think of myself as powerless,
as a victim,
as determined by sex, age, race,
as being less than I am,
or as other than yours.

Empty me
of the disguises and lies
in which I hide myself from other people
and from my responsibility
for my neighbors and for the world.

Hollow out in me a space
in which I will find myself,
find peace and a whole heart,
a forgiving spirit and holiness,
the springs of laughter,
and the will to reach boldly
for abundant life for myself
and the whole human family.

Ted Loder
______________________________

Rumination…

This prayer is full of ruminatorial opportunities! (but I’ll focus on just one)

The line that first drew me in was, “Empty me now of…the arrogance of being right.”

I wondered, ‘

“what would happen in our lives if we took 30 days and decided that we would choose to be kind instead of fighting to prove that we are right?”

How would we handle the tension in our souls that worships the god of rightness more than the God of love.

Could I possibly see and believe that I can choose to be kind over being right without having to give up on what I believe…yes I think I could, but that would require a mind like Christ’s.

He was able to be 100% right in every situation when the people around Him were so lost and wrong, yet love and kindness flowed from His soul.

I often ask myself, “even if I prove myself to be absolutely right in this moment, does it really have an eternal significance?”

Most often it does not, and my need to be right can easily take second place to my call to be kind and demostrate love without really giving up anything that matters, and gain much that does through kindness.

Our need to always be right lurks in the shadows of most all conflict…

Our need to always be right reveals the insecurities that fill our identity…

Our need to always be right becomes a god that we fashion and dress in religiosity and truth justifications…

Our need to always be right keeps us from enjoying the people in our lives…

30 days…can you do it…will you allow yourself to enter into and feel and become aware of the tension that you are experiencing with a need to be right…

When you sense the Holy Spirit placing some Divine Duck Tape over your mouth again and again, let me encourage you to laugh and smile at yourself as you see how often you need to apply the filter. It’s okay, it is all a part of the process and journey of becoming, and on the way, your kindness just might unleash the soul of smeone who desperately needs it.

Dei Gratia,

Monty

True Spiritual Power

As I was meditating on some thoughts penned by A.B Simpson this morning, I was again struck with the truth that we never really tread new spiritual ground, there is always someone who has been there and experienced God’s truth before us. So often I think I am onto some incredible revelation and am then humbled by a blog, or even the words of a God-follower from centuries ago that have already said what I was trying to say.

A.B Simpson seems to always be quite a few steps ahead of me in my God-journey. Recently I was in Thailand speaking with Alliance missionaries. During a men’s luncheon, my talk was on “Three Types of Men”…the power-drained, the power-full, and the power-filled.

The heart of the talk was to move men out of a powerless existence as well as a powerful existence. It seems we are either one or the other. We either abdicate our spirituality or we take control of our faith in a legalistic religious fashion. Neither one draw us nor place us in the presence of God. Both are spiritual toxins that need healing, restoration and repentance.

The movement God is calling us towards is being power-filled. To be powerful is to have the right answers, know the right stuff, and behave externally the right way. This leads to ego, ritual and religion. To be power-filled is the surrendered life, where we make room in our soul for God to dwell and the life of Christ to expand over the self life.

So, it really was no surprise when I read Simpson today and basked in his words that were penned long before mine indicating the same spiritual truth. Listen in as he calls us to enter the life of the power-filled and not the power-drained or the power-full.

Dei Gratia,

Monty

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A spiritual man is not so much a man possessing a strong spiritual character as a man filled with the Holy Spirit. So the apostle Paul said: Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.

The glory of the new creation, then, is not only that it recreates the human spirit, but that it fits it for the abode of God Himself, and makes it dependent upon the Son, as the child upon the mother. The highest spirituality, therefore, is the most utter helplessness, the most total dependence and the most complete possession of the Holy Spirit. The beautiful act of Christ in breathing upon His disciples and imparting to them from His own lips the very Spirit that was already in Him expressed in the most vivid manner the crowning glory of the new creation. And when the Holy Spirit thus possesses us, He fills every part of our being.

~A.B Simpson

God Dancing

Young Ballerina“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?
Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (The Message)

“Holy days are a background rhythm for your life that you fit the rest of your life into. You don’t take a day off; you take a day apart. The Sabbath defines the rest of the days. That’s a totally different way of viewing time than our culture views it. It’s not easy. It requires long training and persistent determination. But ultimately it’s easier to live this way than to live fragmented, crazy.”

~ Eugene Peterson

When I was 28 years old, with three children under the age of 6 and my husband’s blessing, I decided to fulfill a childhood dream of being a ballerina. So at about 20 pounds overweight uniformed in new shoes, tights and a leotard, I stood in front of very large mirrors surrounded by girls and boys no older than 10 and took classical ballet lessons, for almost ten years.

I thought that when I began dance again that everything that I had learned as a young girl between the ages of 10 and 13, would come back to me in a flash and I would be ahead of the game. Right. My mind had the memory, my muscles didn’t. I thought that if I pushed myself really hard that I would be en pointe (in toe shoes), in about a year – it took seven. Also, I had to balance my passion for music and dance with my responsibilities as a wife and mother. Everything took careful balance and rhythm to come together. During that near decade, I lost the 20 pounds, had gained strength, grace and my goal – I became an instructor and could strap on the toe shoes and twirl with the pre-professionals.

There were many nights I left the dance studio and rushed to my car so that no one could see my tears of frustration. What I wanted was attainable, but only in part. I would never look like the teenagers in my class, would never carry off their ease and grace in performance.

One night after rehearsal my instructor stopped me at the door. I blinked back the tears, hoping she wouldn’t see my shame. She put her hand on my shoulder gently and told me I was pushing too hard – that if I didn’t allow my mind and muscles to come into alignment I was on the brink of an injury. “Take a few days” she said, “and just think about the choreography.” She told me to visualize doing the steps in time to the music and to breathe as though actually dancing.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that day I learned about rest. I had pushed and pushed my body to perform – I was dancing as fast as I could – but the process would not be rushed. My body needed exercise and discipline, but then it needed rest and reflection.

And so it is with following the Rabbi. There’s a time for work and a time for rest, and both are active. Joy can be found when we allow ourselves to put down our plans in order to follow those unforced rhythms of grace, thereby allowing Him to build and construct our lives in harmony with His divine artistry. I became a dancer as I chose to work and rest in the rhythm of how my older frame could handle each new challenge.

On the night of my very last performance with my dance studio in Colorado, six months before we moved back to Washington State, one of our regular patrons came up to me and told me that I should be given the award for “most improved.” Unbeknownst to me this gentleman had watched me dance for years with our small company. He said, “I didn’t think you would ever become such a beautiful dancer. You always seemed so nervous, like you were afraid you’d miss a step. Tonight I couldn’t tell you apart from the other girls. I was shocked when I realized it was you.” That was the best compliment he could have ever given me.

As with music, Life is about movement and stillness, sound and silence, joy and sorrow. Our Heavenly Father gives us freedom to make our own rhythm as we live day to day, but He is uniquely tuned to the vibration of our existence and will shape and mold the manifold tapestry of the symphony of our lives, if we will take the Time… to Rest… in the hands of the Master.

TLH Profile 09-07Tanya Lee Hodel is a contributing writer and leader for Sacred Space. She has been leading worship for over two decades, and brings a love of  spiritual formation to all that she does.

You can contact Tanya at: tlhodel@gmail.com

Night Rhythm

candle1

As I move through the day, so often the rhythms of life, grace, and peace fade against the banging non-life-giving beats that flood my ears with noise. At first, the gradual fading seems unnoticeable, and then suddenly you realize you are out of sync with reality, life, others and mainly God.

As I purposefully practice the God-rhythms of life during each day, I find myself experiencing a connectedness to God and others that begs for better words to describe. Practicing and entering into the God-rhythm of life is not a check list of spiritual practices that you must master in order to have an enlightened moment. It is also not some secret extra knowledge that you must search for…God is not that capricious.

Experiencing God-rhythm, and sensing His presence in your heart,is possible. No matter what is happening in the world, or what is going on around you, you can begin to pull yourself back from the four corners of the world that your soul has migrated too, and become grateful for the moment that you have…right now.

Even as you are reading this entry, your mind, or a portion of your conscious and subconscious thought-life, has taken a trip somewhere. Maybe it soared to a person that you are just head-over-heels in love with. Maybe, it went to the warm memory of you mom or dad who are no longer with you, but you miss them. Perhaps it is sermonizing at someone who hurt you, and in your mind you are dumping a verbal barge on them! Or just maybe, you are thinking about your to-do list, or what needs to get done at work tomorrow.

Regardless of where some part of your thought-life has gone, you now realize that you are not completely present at this moment. When we are not present, it is very hard, maybe even impossible, to feel and enter into God’s divine rhythm.

What should we do?

So…we grace ourselves as our mind wanders…and we grace ourselves as our focus seems minuscule…and we grace ourselves when we struggle to be present…We grace ourselves because God would, and God does…but we have a hard time letting ourselves off the hook. But when we don’t grace ourselves we force the rhythm.

Forced rhythm defeats your goal, it overshadows your desire, it makes mechanical that which God intended to be natural…grace yourself…let yourself off the hook…take advantage of this imperfect moment of your spirituality and simply enjoy it…soon you will feel the rhythm.

God’s rhythm is always pulsating…it is always there…our need is to simply leave our baggage of performance, perfection, and professional religion at the door and take a deep breath and say…”Hey, Abba…I’m here, would you slowly reign in the rest of me so that we can dance?”

If this concept if utterly foreign to you, and your moments with God have looked more like a shotgunned monologue of wants and needs, then it is time for you to experience God’s true rhythm in your life.

It would be good to gracefully look for some time in the morning and some time in the evening to reign in all of you to be with God…Nothing fancy, nothing to memorize, no religious shtick…just you and God.

One rhythm prop that I like to use to still my thoughts, and bring my wandering heart home is reading a Psalm…The Psalms are authentic, honest, real. They give words to doubt, anger and struggles, as well as redirect the wandering mind to the source of all life-rhythm.

Here is a night rhythm Psalm for you…all you need is a moment…find a quiet corner…turn off the electronics…get comfortable…breath deeply…and tell God you really need to rest in His presence and feel the rhythm of His heart. When you are ready, read the Psalm slowly…don’t force it…release your expectations…and simply enjoy the words, they were inspired by God, and they have a life and a rhythm of their own!
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Psalm 131

Lord, as this day ends,
soul and body, I am tired.
And all I have done:
is it worthwhile?
I need you, Lord,
where can I turn, except to you?

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor are my eyes haughty;
I busy not myself with great things too sublime for me.
Nay rather, I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child.
Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap,
so is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the Lord,
both now and forever.
________________

As you begin to build a natural rhythm of God-connection in your daily life…you will want to keep an eye on your motivations and expectations. So quickly, we turn what is a natural and life-giving rhythm into a formula or rigid “must-do-to-get-through” religious exercise.

So relax, enjoy a rhythm section in the morning, and a rhythm section in the evening…enter into the unforced rhythm of God’s grace. I will post some more morning and night rhythms for you to use, and I pray that the beats of the world would dissipate as the rhythm of God crescendos in your soul.

Dei Gratia,
Monty

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