Friday, July 23, 2021
I respond: "But they're your buttons. She didn't sew them onto your soul!"
If we didn't have "buttons," like the need to always be in control, or the need to always have things go our own way, or the need to not be interrupted when we am busy, or the "denial button," then no one could push our buttons because there would be none to push.
Jesus didn't have "hot buttons." People kept trying to push him, but he didn't hang on the cross and complain, "That's it - when you just mocked me you pushed my buttons!!!" Instead, Buttonless Jesus responded with, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
Every "button" has a sign saying "I am a victim." Hot-buttoned people are clothed with the spirit of victimization. Things are always being done to them. Every time a person cries "My buttons got pushed by you!" it indicates a refusal to take responsibility for one's own behavior. It's a sign of emotional and spiritual imprisonment. Buttons confess: "I am controlled by your behaviors toward me. You push; like a machine, I react."
That's not good. Bondage: bad; Freedom: good.
Paul wrote: "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be set off again by a button of slavery." (Galatians 5:1; Piippo translation)
How do we get de-buttoned and enter the arena of freedom? The only answer I have found is: dwell in Christ. Live the connected-life. Be a branch, connected to Jesus the Vine, and His nature shall flow into you. He gives you His peace. Jesus said: "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."
As Christ is formed in us (Galatians 4:19) when people try to push us to our limits, what they encounter is a love knows no limits. This changes things. We wear different clothing, and if this clothing has any buttons at all they are labeled "love," "joy," "peace," "patience," "kindness," "gentleness," and "self-control." (Gal. 5:22-23)
Remove my hot buttons, Lord.
Take away my reactiveness and free me to respond as you did.
Thursday, July 22, 2021
- On average, religion is a clear force for good when it comes to family unity and the welfare of children — the most important aspects of our day-to-day lives.
- Americans who regularly attend religious services are less likely to cheat on their partners.
- They are less likely to abuse their partners.
- They are less likely to divorce.
- They are more likely to enjoy happier marriages.
- Religious parents spend more time with their children.
- Religious teens are more likely to shun lying, cheating, and stealing, and to identify with the Golden Rule.
- Children from religious families are “rated by both parents and teachers as having better self-control, social skills and approaches to learning than kids with non-religious parents,” according to a nationally representative study of more than 16,000 children across the United States.
- Faith is a net positive when it comes to “prosocial behavior” among American children.
- Religious parents are also more likely to report praising and hugging their school-aged children.
- What makes religion vital, in part, is that it provides rituals, beliefs and a sense of group identity that deepens people’s connections to the moral order. In his words, the faithful “believe in the existence of a moral power to which they are subject and from which they receive what is best in themselves.” (Obviously this is absent in atheism. On the absence of God there is no reason to be moral.)
- The rituals associated with religion lend meaning to life, including its most difficult moments and seasons — from the loss of a job to the loss of a loved one.
- Religious rituals encourage us to take our family roles more seriously and to help us deal with the stresses that can otherwise poison family relationships. The norms — from fidelity to forgiveness — taught in America’s houses of worship tend to reinforce the faithful’s commitments to their spouses, family members and children and give them a road map for dealing with the disappointments, anger and conflicts that crop up in all family relationships. And as one of the most powerful sources of social capital outside of the state and workplace today, religious social networks provide support to millions of Americans.
I read Merton because he had this deep, thick, massive praying life. Over many years. It was constant, never yielding to the growing media circus of our shallow culture. In praying, he met God, and was led to the wellspring of life.
August 28, 1990. That's the date I inscribed inside the book jacket. It became one of my companions in life, along with the Bible, Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, and other writers who know prayer from the inside. They... actually... got alone with God... and prayed. This is real praying.
Real praying knows from the inside, from much personal experience. Merton heard the voice of God and matured in discernment. Only the experienced discern. You don't believe in prayer if you don't have a praying life.
When I read the Scriptures I not only study them but am studied by them. When this happens, I pray the Scriptures. Because in them I am confronted by the One who is beyond me yet comes to me.
This life-of-praying thing is an inside job, available to all who grow weary of the world's pseudo-sophia and want more.
Tuesday, July 20, 2021
Monday, July 19, 2021
Yale theologian Miroslav Volf personally witnessed the horrors of the Bosnian war. Out of this context he wrote,
I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn’t God love? Shouldn’t divine love be beyond wrath? God is love, and God loves every person and every creature. That’s exactly why God is wrathful against some of them. My last resistance to the idea of God’s wrath was a casualty of the war in former Yugoslavia, the region from which I come. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed and over 3,000,000 were displaced. My villages and cities were destroyed, mypeople shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination, and I could not imagine God not being angry. Or think of Rwanda in the last decade of the past century, where 800,000 people were hacked to death in one hundred days!
How did God react to the carnage? By doting on the perpetrators in a grandparently fashion? By refusing to condemn the bloodbath but instead affirming the perpetrators basic goodness? Wasn’t God fiercely angry with them? Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love.
Volf, Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a Culture Stripped of Grace, (Zondervan 2005) pp. 138-139
Saturday, July 17, 2021
Friday, July 16, 2021
|(Sunset on a Lake Michigan beach)|
The mature person flourishes in life as they are able to wield the powerful word "No." The Jesus-idea is that, as we connect to him as a branch connects to a vine, we bear "fruit," part of which is awe-inspiring "self control." (Galatians 5:23) People drop their jaws and stare in wonder as people say "No" to mere self-gratification.
A Spirit-led, self controlled person is a free person. They have grown in their humanity and are empowered to say "No" to eating the wrong things, to spending money they don't have to buy things they don't need, to entering every open door, to affirming every idea, and to engaging in sexual behavior as the objectification of other persons.
"No" is the ultimate boundary word. The ability to wield this word will not come from hearing will-power slogans like "Just say 'No'." Authentic, boundary-setting 'No-ability" must become one's heart, one's inner being. This happens as Christ is formed in us.
Think of Jesus after he fed the 5,000. The people rushed after him to make him an earthly king. Jesus exercised self control and refused. His 'No' was not only for him, but for the sake of others; indeed, for the sake of the whole world.
This is a narrow road, said Jesus, and few take it. But it is the road to freedom. M. Scott Peck described The Road Less Traveled as "gratification delay." "No" is, perhaps, the ultimate other-centered word.
Pray for the "No" of Christ be formed in you, and go free.
Thursday, July 15, 2021
Intimate connection is the key to ongoingness. The unceasing, continual praying Paul experienced was not some arduous, task-oriented duty. Unceasing praying does not come by trying harder. It flows out of connectedness. The more there is intimate abiding in Christ, the more one's praying becomes unceasing.
“The task to which You have called me is as hard to accomplish as scaling Mount Everest, but You can accomplish it if I can keep my will attuned to Your will…. That is my task, to hold my will to the current of power, and let You sweep through endlessly.” (Quoted in Richard Foster, Prayer - 10th Anniversary Edition: Finding the Heart's True Home, pp. 125-126)
Connect often to Jesus. Ongoing conversation with God will follow.
Unceasing praying is the fruit of intimate relationship. As relationship deepens, conversation deepens. Richard Foster describes this as a growth process. (See Foster, Prayer, pp. 125-126.)
To begin, I choose to connect with Christ, in the act of praying.
For me this happened in 1977. I made a choice to pray a half hour a day. I did not do this to earn God's love. I chose this because of God's love for me.
1. Those who love God, talk with God.
2. I love God.
3. Therefore, I talk with God.
Foster writes: "This is how we gain proficiency at anything. The accomplished pianist, who today spryly runs her hands up and down the keyboard, once had to agonize over the simplest scales. The same is true for us." Foster, Prayer, p. 126. See also Dallas Willard's beautiful The Spirit of the Disciplines.)
Choose this day whom you will talk with. As for me and my house, we will talk with God.
Then, the activity and content of the mind descends into the heart.
I woke this morning with a song in my heart. These words are looping in my soul: When we arrive on eternity's shore, and death is just a memory and tears are no more... This song now flows like an unceasing river through my soul, over and over and over.
Foster says prayer becomes "like a tune that we suddenly realize we have been humming all day long. Inward prayer bubbles forth at the oddest moments: in the midst of traffic, in the shower, in a crowded shopping mall. We begin to dream our prayer." (Ib.)
We begin to think our prayers, in our hearts. "Our decisions become increasingly bathed in a loving rationality." This is hard to describe. It comes only to pray-ers. Foster writes:
"I do not quite have the words to explain it to you. We become, for example, more sensitive to the hurts and sufferings of others. We walk into a room and quickly know who is sad or lonely or dealing with a deep, inexpressible sorrow. In such a case we are able to slip over beside them and sit in silence, bringing comfort and understanding and healing, knowing that “deep calls to deep” (Ps. 42:7)." (Ib., 127)
For me, this comes as I practice praying.
Finally, prayer permeates the whole personality. Foster writes: "It becomes like our breath or our blood, which moves throughout the entire body. Prayer develops a deep rhythm inside us." (Ib., 127)
This is intimacy with Jesus, ongoingly. This is love, experientially. Praying-as-relationship becomes the air I breathe.
This is John 14-15-16 stuff, realized. The Father makes his home in us. We are one with God, unitively. (This is a relational union, not a metaphysical union of being.)
Praying becomes a life of cultivated closeness. Unceasingly.
My two books are:
Leading the Presence-Driven Church
Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God
I am currently writing...
Deconstructing Progressive Christianity, and
Then, Linda and I will co-write our book on Relationships.
Wednesday, July 14, 2021
|Leaf, in my backyard|
This morning I read Matthew 6:19-21.
Jesus seems to be saying that you can't do both. You can't store up treasures on earth and simultaneously store up treasures in heaven. Like you can't travel forward and backward at the same time. Like you can't breathe in and breathe out at the same time.
Richard Foster says "simplicity is freedom, duplicity is bondage."
The Danish philosopher Kierkegaard wrote a book titled Purity of Heart Is to Will One Thing. And Jesus said the pure in heart are the ones who will see God.
You cannot simultaneously will two things. You cannot simultaneously will "earthly treasures stored up in the house" and "treasures stored up in heaven."
Richard E. Byrd, after months alone in the barren Arctic, recorded in his journal, “I am learning…that a man can live profoundly without masses of things.” (In Foster, Celebration of Discipline, p. 80)
You mean, like Jesus did?
"Because we lack a divine Center our need for security has led us into an insane attachment to things. We really must understand that the lust for affluence in contemporary society is psychotic. It is psychotic because it has completely lost touch with reality. We crave things we neither need nor enjoy. “We buy things we do not want to impress people we do not like." (Ib.)
true heart is indicated by what I am storing up, and what I am doing with whatever time, resources, and abilities God has given me.
That's what Jesus says to me today.
My two books are:
Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.
Leading the Presence-Driven Church.
I'm working on:
Deconstructing Progressive Christianity
Tuesday, July 13, 2021
|(Flower, in my back yard)|
Thomas Merton, in his journals, wrote about life in the monastery of Gethsemane, in Kentucky. One theme was his struggle with the CEO of Gethsemane (the "Abbot"), Dom James. Dom James had problems, as Merton saw things. Merton knew he had to accept Dom James's leadership, and wrote:
"I do not criticize Dom James – his nature is what it is, and he must see things as he does. And he is the Abbot God has willed for me." (Merton, Thomas (2010-10-19). Learning To Love: Exploring Solitude and Freedom, The Journals of Thomas Merton, p. 27.)
Then Merton had this insight: "I know I will never have things exactly as I wish they ought to be – and as I would take pride in them." (Ib.)
In that singular sentence I see a free person. Merton was free of the terrible burden of always having to have things go his own way. (This is how Richard Foster puts it in Celebration of Discipline. This is how Jesus puts it, when he tells Peter, "One day someone will tie a belt around your waist and take you where you do not wish to go.")
Is that really a terrible burden? Wouldn't it be ideal to have everything go our own way? As interesting as these questions are, they are irrelevant, because everything in life will not go the way you want them to. More than that, everything in life should not go your way, unless you are a God who always knows the way the world and people need to go.
The person who needs things to be exactly as they wish them to be will be forever weighed down by the fact of a mighty non-happening. They will be everlastingly miserable, as demand after demand remains unmet. And, they will be angry.
But one who learns how to be, in and through whatever comes their way, is the free person, living transcendent to life's circumstances. (Also called: living by faith.)
Pray to be free of the need to have things always go as you demand them to go.
My three books are:
Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God
Leading the Presence-Driven Church
Encounters with the Holy Spirit (co-edited with Janice Trigg)
I'm currently writing:
Transformation: How God Changes the Human Heart
Then, Linda and I intend to write our book on Relationships.
Monday, July 12, 2021
|Me, at Green Lake Conference Center, Wisconsin|
I finished the book of Proverbs - again.
I'm ready to re-read, and re-meditate on Proverbs, beginning in chapter one.
Proverbs has become part of the rock that keeps the ship of my soul anchored.
The main concepts in Proverbs are:
• Proverbs are general statements that affirm godly values and virtues.
• There are two ways, and the way of wisdom is to be chosen over the path to destruction.
• Wisdom is the foundation of a godly life.
• We show wisdom in the way we speak and the way we interact with others.
(From Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, Kindle Locations 137220-137223)
From Proverbs 1:1-7, Passion translation.
1 Here are kingdom revelations, words to live by,
Sunday, July 11, 2021
The term 'progressive' is popular. So, not wanting to appear unpopular, some Christians have adopted the term and attached it to modify 'Christianity'. Hence, 'progressive Christian'.
I could never refer to myself this way. Because, as I have said in previous posts:
1) 'Progressive' has no place in a Christian eschatology.
2) 'Progress' is a myth.
The self-identified 'progressive Christian' has adopted a mythical position. To explain, consider this quote from philosopher John Gray's Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Human and Other Animals.
ON BELIEF IN PROGRESS: "In science, the growth of knowledge is cumulative. But human life as a whole is not a cumulative activity; what is gained in one generation may be lost in the next. In science, knowledge is an unmixed good; in ethics and politics it is bad as well as good. science increases human power - and magnifies the flaws in human nature. It enables us to live longer and have higher living standards than in the past. At the same time it allows us to wreak destruction - on each other and the Earth - on a larger scale than ever before."
Technological progress? Yes.
Moral progress? No, the belief in moral progress is a utopian myth. (Hegelian; Marxist)
Saturday, July 10, 2021
|(Bolles Harbor, Michigan)|
(I'm reposting this to keep it in play.)
Friday, July 09, 2021
What does God want you to do? Henri Nouwen writes:
"God has a very special role for you to fulfill. God wants you to stay close to his heart and let him guide you. You will know what you are called to do when you have to know it." (Nouwen, Discernment: Reading the Signs of Daily Life, p. 97)
Discernment is a function of closeness, of intimacy, of familiarity. Discernment increases where there is enduring connection.
1. Stay close to God. (Abide in Christ.)
2. Listen and discern.
All this is "the Lord is my shepherd" stuff. God desires to guide you in this life and will guide you as you stay close to his heart.
You can read about discerning the voice of God in my book Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.
Thursday, July 08, 2021
An emerging body of research suggests that spending time alone, if done right, can be good for us.
- Even the most socially motivated among us should regularly be taking time to ourselves if we want to have fully developed personalities, and be capable of achieving focus and creative thinking.
- Research suggests that blocking off enough alone time is an important component of a well-functioning social life. If we want to get the most out of the time we spend with people, we should make sure we’re spending enough of it away from them. I know, after years of regularly taking solitary times with God, that solitude helps me be better with people.
- Solitude (if done right) makes our bodies and minds work better.
- One ongoing Harvard study indicates that people form more lasting and accurate memories if they believe they’re experiencing something alone.
- Solitude can make a person more capable of empathy towards others. (I am certain this is true. Especially if solitude is done in the right way. My compassion for others, even for my enemies, increases in extended solitary times with God.)
- In an age when no one is ever more than a text message or an e-mail away from other people, the distinction between “alone” and “together” has become hopelessly blurry, even as the potential benefits of true solitude are starting to become clearer.
- Nayfekh writes: "Solitude has long been linked with creativity, spirituality, and intellectual might. The leaders of the world’s great religions — Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, Moses — all had crucial revelations during periods of solitude. The poet James Russell Lowell identified solitude as “needful to the imagination;” in the 1988 book “Solitude: A Return to the Self,” the British psychiatrist Anthony Storr invoked Beethoven, Kafka, and Newton as examples of solitary genius."
- Solitude is to be distinguished from "loneliness."
- Nayfekh has an interesting review of "solitude research." U-Mass graduate student Christopher Long "started working on a project to precisely define solitude and isolate ways in which it could be experienced constructively. The project’s funding came from, of all places, the US Forest Service, an agency with a deep interest in figuring out once and for all what is meant by “solitude” and how the concept could be used to promote America’s wilderness preserves."
- There is "an emergence of solitude studies." For example, Robert Coplan of Carleton University studies children who play alone. "Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert, a leader in the world of positive psychology, has recently overseen an intriguing study that suggests memories are formed more effectively when people think they’re experiencing something individually."
- Gilbert's study shows that solitude combats "social loafing," "which says that people tend not to try as hard if they think they can rely on others to pick up their slack. (If two people are pulling a rope, for example, neither will pull quite as hard as they would if they were pulling it alone.)"
- Solitude fosters "metacognitive activity." "Metacognition" is the process of thinking critically and reflectively about our own thoughts." As Richard Arum shows us in his book Academically Adrift, today's multitasking university students are doing that less and less. (This is Daniel Kahneman's "slow thinking.")
- Reed Larson of the U of Illinois, in his study of teens and solitude, has shown that meaningful times alone allows for a kind of introspection and freedom from self-consciousness that strengthens their sense of identity. I can personally see how this might happen in the fruit of years spent in intentional aloneness with God. Larson found "that kids who spent between 25 and 45 percent of their nonclass time alone tended to have more positive emotions over the course of the weeklong study than their more socially active peers, were more successful in school and were less likely to self-report depression."
- "John Cacioppo of the University of Chicago, whose 2008 book “Loneliness” with William Patrick summarized a career’s worth of research on all the negative things that happen to people who can’t establish connections with others, said recently that as long as it’s not motivated by fear or social anxiety, then spending time alone can be a crucially nourishing component of life."
- Psychologist Adam Waytz of Harvard says that "spending a certain amount of time alone... can make us less closed off from others and more capable of empathy — in other words, better social animals."
- Finally, "kids who spent between 25 and 45 percent of their nonclass time alone tended to have more positive emotions over the course of the weeklong study than their more socially active peers, were more successful in school, and were less likely to self-report depression."
Henri Nouwen has told us that there is a "ministry of presence" and a "ministry of absence." There is a time to be alone with God and a time to be with God and people. I've written about the need for Jesus-followers to regularly enter into solitary times with God here.