Posts tagged spirituality

Love Inspired


Infinite love, inhale… All that is in you, exhale… Don’t hold your breath.

As featured on Richard Rohr’s Center for Action and Contemplation

Spirit of Christ, Lead Me


Let the Spirit of Christ lead me.
Not, my spirit,
Not, the spiritual forces,
But God, Himself
in human flesh.
This is my role model,
my driving force.
My focus.

Let me not be deceived
by things that would distract
me, tantalizing
though they might be.
They are empty,
hollow vessels
meant for other gods.

Let my eyes stay focused on You.
Let my heart beat only for You.
Let my mind stay fixed on You.
Let my every sensation remind me of You.

Lord, you are my One and Only.
the Giver of life,
the life worth living.
Catch me in your updraft
and carry me along on
the wings of your Spirit.


“those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.”
~ Isaiah 40:31

Religion or Spirituality, which is it?


church St Michaels - MH

Religion is the menu. Spirituality is the meal.
Religion is the score. Spirituality is the music.
Religion is what they hand down to you…the codified beliefs. Spirituality is how you live out your ultimate commitments.
It’s what drives you to embody your values.
Religion, you inherit. Spirituality, you create.

– Jan Phillips, October 2014 “Museletter”

Hidden Writing


Displaced from my usual writing spot at my desk and even my special springtime spot on the front porch, I settled (grudgingly) onto a picnic table on the back porch. The writing surface is a bit grimy and uneven so I brought out some lovely place mats to smooth over my discomfort. No go.

When I write, I want my pen to flow completely unhindered over its surface. This is easy to do on the pages of my journal – college ruled composition book, the current one, yellow in color. But today’s writing was simply the recording of scripture verses as I looked them up. No original thoughts, ideas or insights. Heavens, these words were thousands of years old. I had read and transcribed them many times, but still, they deserved smooth.

So I placed my single printed page on top of my yellow  journal, #35 of its kind by my count, and began again to write.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” I copied from my Bible onto this page. “A cheerful heart is good medicine,” I penned. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made,” I wrote.

Then…”The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” I shaped these words in purple fine point pen on the page and then stopped. Suddenly I became aware that each word I wrote on the single sheet was being transferred onto the face of the yellow journal underneath. Invisible to the eye, it was simply indentation. Words written on top and around and over, tangled, with no concern for alignment or periods or capital letters. Invisible, unless a great blank sheet were overlayed and the side of a pencil gently rubbed over. Then, all these words would be revealed.

Perhaps this is how the Word of God is written on us. Etched in divine penmanship. Then, when a new, pure white sheet it overlayed, the hand of life smoothly strokes us up and down. The Great Revealing Pencil uncovers what’s been hidden to all eyes but His. What He has spoken into existence is revealed.

“We are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do,” I wrote, shaping the words onto this page, now aware they were being transferred invisibly to the one underneath.

If a child, perhaps my child, brought her paper and shading pen today and colored on my life, what would be revealed?

Strengthened in Prayer: multi-tasking is Biblical


First Thessalonians (5:17) says it clearly: “Pray continually.”

I assume that means 24-7, 365. So, if I understand that correctly, that means my life should be one continuous prayer. Praising. Confessing. Thanking. Asking. But, wait, God wants me to be going about His business here on earth, too. So, if God expects me to pray without ceasing, He must have designed me to be both doing life and praying at the same time. Multi-tasking must be Biblical!

That’s good news because we’re good at multi-tasking these days. Texting while driving. Shopping while chatting. Pretending to listen while we’re thinking of 100 other things. Actually I don’t think any of those are truly multi-tasking, that is, doing both at the same time. I think we ping between things to accomplish both: Text, then check traffic, then text. Peruse shelves, then “say that again?” then select our salad dressing. Hmm, uh-huh, when our mind scans our mental to-do list, then uh-huh… Yes?

So I guess it’s natural to approach prayer in the same way. Pray, then do. Pray, then go. Pray, then speak. (or the other way around as may be more often the case) But if God actually intends for us to pray continuously — without stopping — that means we must have been made for this. In fact, it may be the one thing that can truly be multi-tasked with live. And is meant to be.

Except we don’t. We treat it as we do all the things we’ve been assigned. We add it to the list and then, if we’re dutiful, we check it off. Or, perhaps we’re a bit better about it and weave it throughout our days’ doings. But let’s not kid ourselves; that’s not praying continually.

Just for the sake of argument, if I could pray AND do at the same time, what would that look like?

  • The prayer form would have to keep changing along with whatever I was doing.
  • If I was talking, prayer would be in the words.
  • If I was listening, prayer would be in the listening.
  • If I was moving, prayer would be in the motion.
  • If I was writing, prayer would be in the lettering.

That would be life lived completely God’s way.

What about if I exercising? Just to see, I pulled out my resistance band yesterday (a stretchy band that I use for exercise and in fitness activities) and choreographed motions to the hymn, Spirit of the Living God. I pull it. It resists. I pull harder. It moves. The give and take of exert and respond is the rhythm and movement of words and song. The song ends…”Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me” and I bring the band, taut between my hands, down to rest. In that moment I can feel the residual effects of the resistance and the stretch I’ve just performed. I can literally feel the prayer I have just prayed and I am stronger.

I have been strengthened in prayer. That is multi-tasking, and I think God is okay with it.

**Thank you to the folks at the Upper Room and the Global Board of Ministries who invited me to participate among them at SOULfeast 2013 this year. This inspiration is the fruit of that invitation.

And God said, let it be Thursday


and it was.

Have you ever wondered whether God creates from the beginning of a day or sort of makes it up as He goes along?

Whether all of its doings are put in place ahead of time, or does what I do in it knock it off kilter and cause God to right it again?

Or is it incomplete, waiting for us to fill it in with all the details?

In that case does our Majesty sit and cheer us on hoping we’ll do so and so because he’s planned such and such?

And in that case, do I ever surprise Him? Not catch Him off guard, exactly, but just choose what He hoped I’d do but figured I wouldn’t. Or the reverse, God help me, what He hoped I wouldn’t do but now that I have He’s reminded that there’s work to do with me yet?

I just can’t imagine He leaves anything to chance.

Yet, I look around and see things He couldn’t have possibly intended. Perhaps they are Friday things or next week’s agenda.

Wow, does that mean God has a calendar? Or is it just me who wakes up to Thursday and selfishly thinks its mine.

Well, God did give me this one. Wonder what He wants me to do with it.

God was present to this day before it began. Is present before it begins. This is what makes it Holy. Makes Him real in it. As I sit before it, He becomes real in it to me.

God said, let it be Thursday. And it is.

Have you seen the DQ Duckie?


Have you seen the ducks at Dairy Queen?

Ducks come in all flavors. Dipped and regular.

See them? Go ahead. Look carefully. See the eye, the beak, the fluffy little body? You see it now, right? Had you seen it before?

I can’t go to Dairy Queen without seeing them now. Just for the record, I do love Dairy Queen. Not that I frequent the place, but there’s one along the bike trail and I am all about rewards after a good day of riding.

And that store, right along the W&OD Trail was where my eyes were first opened… to the ducky. Our family sat at a small table, just beneath the advertising poster on the wall of the store. Our pre-school-aged daughter Olivia pointed to the sign and said, “Look at the duckie!”

We looked, but no, we didn’t see it. She insisted, pointing and describing the details. She wasn’t making this up. Right there in the ice cream, she saw the duckie. And finally, looking as if through her eyes, we saw it too. All the little ice cream swirls completed the heads and beaks and big duckie eyes.

Children see with different eyes. Eyes that haven’t already decided “what something is.” They are open in a way adult eyes don’t seem to be. But even in adults the child-like eyes are still there. I know because, with her help, my eyes could see it as she did. It wasn’t hidden. It just wasn’t apparent until I had a bit of help.

I think the eyes of faith are this way. Sometimes we just need a bit of help seeing what’s already there. Like an Escher painting, we need a shift in perspective to see what we didn’t initially see. Once we see it, it’s obvious. But we may need someone sitting at our table to point it out to us.

This week I heard someone say the Trinity is like this: God above us, God beside us, God within us. I probably have heard that before but it never quite struck me this way. That Christ is the “God beside us” opening the scriptures to us, imploring us, giving us strength, helping us see — opening our eyes to what’s obvious to Him but not yet to us.

I know the trinity is a sticking point between me and my Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters. The divinity of Christ, his membership with the three, the part He plays in connecting me with God the Father and God the Spirit, is not clear to them. They don’t know “God beside them,” just above and within. The Lord and Father they know compels them to incredible obedience – just as that same Father does me. I just have the Son beside me pointing the way.

I wonder how many times He has said, “Don’t you see?” And I haven’t seen, or haven’t heard, or just looked the other way in my distraction by other things. Jesus is in the perspective-changing business, and that’s all about the opening of eyes.

For some I imagine it isn’t till the end of things that the Lord’s presence allows them to make the triune connection. Of course by then any child could see it.

Out of the GOODness of my Heart…oh wait


I just dropped my daughter off at an early morning activity. She got out with her gear, shut the door and headed on her way.  I almost opened my car door to call after her, “You’re welcome!” Because she should have thanked me for the ride. She usually does. Today she didn’t. But this isn’t about her, it’s about me.

I don’t give her rides for the thanks. At least I did’t think I did. Until I heard myself thinking, “Here I am, doing this out of the goodness of my heart, and look how you respond. You are so ungrateful!”

And right there I blew it. If I truly offered the ride out of the good place in my heart, I would not be hurt by any response. My reaction showed me the un-good that was seeping in. Back to the drawing board.

Funny, when I arrived at this dedication for Lent, ‘to do one Goodness each day,’ I thought it would be easy. I mean, how hard can it be, each day to do one thing out of the goodness of my heart? And how nice to go through my day looking for some good to do, some mitzvah, some secret mission or service project. It gave me a good feeling inside.

Until I realized how few things I really did out of that good place, the place absent of expectations from the other. Especially when I did them “for” people close to me.

Oh, but it gets worse. Some of this “good doing” was actually the opposite of good. In some cases the real good to be done was withholding the doing. The good was letting the other experience the consequences or learn the lesson. That didn’t feel good at all, it felt hard. Nearly impossible. But wouldn’t it be just like God to show me the hard thing in the midst of the easy thing I set out to do?

All I could think about was Paul’s dooby-dooby-do (my adjective) verse from Romans 7″18-19.

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.”

Left to my own devices, counting on my own nature, even the good I thought I was doing wasn’t good. Because there were strings attached. Expectations laid. Sin was at hand.

So I plow on deeper into Lent. I am starting to get it. The goodness in my heart is not mine but His. It’s in there, I know it. But letting His Good initiate, carry out and follow up on the things that I do is quite a difficult thing.

But I’m an endurance athlete. In this for the long haul. Perhaps that’s the only thing God and I have in common. He promises not to give up on me. And that, above all else, keeps me holding onto Him. Because He has no good reason for that. Except the goodness in His heart.

It’s really hard to believe, but my heart tells me it is so.

In Mary, God became flesh (actually)


How soon the Christmas carols that were being piped over speakers and intercoms everywhere are silenced. At the gym yesterday, there was no music. Just the sounds of people doing what they do in the weight room, on the track, in the locker room. I noticed the silence. This is odd because, as my kids will tell you, I never notice what’s playing on the radio when we are out somewhere.

But with the songs of Christmas this is different. I don’t exactly “notice.” As in, wow I love this song. It’s more that I begin singing or humming along. So that even when there is no music, like in the produce section at the grocery, I am humming Hark the Herald Angels Sing. If I catch myself doing this, I just smile and continue. No one stops me. This behavior is okay, until after Christmas, when the music stops.

Then, all of a sudden I stop singing. This is not a conscious decision. It’s more of a visceral thing. Just like the singing in the first place. It was organic. Not planned. It just bubbled up from somewhere inside that recognized the music, knew the words and had permission to sing them.

So this morning when I read this, “In Mary, God became flesh”* it struck me. Not just, “Mary was with child.” Or “He was born on Christmas day.” Not even, “He became flesh and lived among us.” But actually, God in Jesus began and grew inside of Mary. In Mary’s womb, God became flesh.

Somehow I had missed this before. God didn’t place Jesus the baby full grown into Mary. God grew Him there. Just as God grows our children in us. Just as God grows ideas in us. God plants them, knits them, shapes them and then, calls on us to birth them.

The incarnation of Jesus wasn’t just a “I am gonna be one of you and come and walk among you event,” God used the incubator of a person. The young girl Mary. Nine months carrying God’s child, God Himself, God taking shape in her so that He could be in the world. Our world.

I wonder if Mary felt a sense of loss when Jesus was born. As a mother, I can’t imagine she did. A mother is so anxious to see what has been growing inside her and to share him with the rest of his family. She is so fulfilled to be able to hold him and care for him. But I wonder…

What would it be like to truly believe that, “In (fill in your name), God became flesh”?

I’m not sure I can really “know” this; it’s more visceral, more organic, just sort of bubbles up from somewhere inside that recognizes Him as if He has always been there and yet is new again each time I greet Him. And there is singing.

*(from Becoming Light, by Thomas Hoffman)

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