Could there be deeper meaning in this crisis?

c51f8-easterGood morning to you! What times we are enduring! What a challenge to our hearts…our perception of time and health…and our journey in Jesus. Who would have guessed that we would be facing?

Friends, I’ve been joining you in having an inordinate amount of time to do some reflection on what is occurring in all of our lives. As many of you know, I’ve had the honor and privilege of joining academia over the past two decades. In my work with students on a doctoral level, we have spent considerable time exploring “deeper meaning” in life via an analysis of the parables of Jesus. Without delving into more than we can handle in one, simple devotional time, what has dawned on me as I’ve attempted to deal with the total upheaval of much of my life is how completely unprepared most of our culture was and is for navigating this Corona Virus crisis. There are some deeper truths that underscore and provide a “thought framework” for why these times are as challenging as they are…here are some on which to reflect:

First of all – our culture has been steeped in a philosophy and way of thinking about life that has focused on the “worship” of material success as well as embrace of the “myth of human progress.” Ever since the 1800’s there has been a growing sense in the unstoppable nature of the progressive perfection of the human experience. Thinkers like Immanuel Kant (who believed that if all human beings would stop, think and meditate, they would figure out life all by themselves) and Jean Rousseau ) who embraced a belief in the purity and unqualified goodness of each human heart) have set the stage for currently the greatest time of angst and growing despair that has occurred in the lives of people since the early 20th century. A period in history that philosophers and academics label “modernity” was that moment in time where human beings started to “believe their own press”…in other words, we really did start to believe that we had every capacity to move our race toward utopianism…that being a life without challenge or struggle or discomfort.

Well…you can imagine how reality of late has slapped us into rethinking some of those presumptions. If you take a moment and think about this, you will realize that all great movements or moments of growth and spiritual breakthrough have to do in one way or another not with how we move ourselves to a perfect, suffering free world but rather how we deal with pain, suffering, and the “front row seat” we have to a world that feels out of control.

I am afraid that many of us who have built our lives on the “myth of progress” have become very naïve about pain and suffering. We simply don’t have time for it. It is a massive inconvenience. It is derailing the building up of our own securities. It’s making the future that we felt we had under control, feel scary and uncertain…things and experiences that NONE of us want to experience. We’ve, in essence, forgotten a basic truth of the human experience – we do not handle suffering; suffering handles us— in deep and mysterious ways that truth is the only way that we can understand the very matrix of life and especially an embracing of new life. Only suffering and certain kinds of humility and brokenness can lead us into genuinely new experiences.

It is amazing to me that the cross of Jesus became the central Christian logo in history. You would have thought that maybe those early followers of Jesu could have come up with something a bit more “positive.” You see, the cross and its rather obvious message of inevitable suffering is aggressively disbelieved in most countries, individuals, and even churches. We are clearly into ascent, achievement, accumulation, and denial of discomfort. It you think about it, the cross of Jesus has become, in many cases, simply a mere piece of jewelry. We’ve made the cross of Jesus into a feel-good salve instead of a very personal, painful, trying, and intense experience of the very reality of love’s unfolding and transformational power. The cross should be reminding us not of OUR glory but His…it should be pointing out again and again how it is through pain and suffering that we are healed. That is the existential (aka, “life-altering experience”) challenge of Jesus’ words to “pick up our own crosses”…sooner or later we, too, have to realize that life can really have NO meaning without redemptive suffering. Yes, it is true…there is something that ONLY suffering and pain can do that all successes and comfort levels of life cannot accomplish in our souls. To be intensely practical, we cannot nor should we miss out on the positive and redemptive meaning of our own pain and suffering.

The Old Testament story of God’s people wandering the wilderness for 40 years was built on the assumption and plan of God to “make new” a wayward people into a unified, new community of faithful obedience and service to God. Could it be…not that God is “doing” this to us…but could it be that THAT is what God can and will do in and through us as we keep our focus on Jesus through this time of challenge? Remember, the cross was something Jesus did for us (that’s true), but not only that…it became something that revealed and invited us into the same pattern…we discover REAL life through the cross. We need forgiveness not just for our sins, but we need transformation so that we are not continually “victimized” or punished by our sins (such as blindness, egocentricity, illusions, or pride).

I read this morning this powerful sentence:

“It seems that nothing less than some kind of pain will force us to release our grip on our small explanations and our self-serving illusions.”

As we live the story of Jesus, we always remember that it is the Resurrection that always follows the cross…in other words, in Jesus’ suffering, pain and even death can be trusted. It is the cross, the journey into a necessary “dark night of the soul” through which we are convinced that life as Jesus promised we’d experience through His resurrection is offered as a gift.

So, in this time of uncertainty…in this time of suffering…we have to ask ourselves, “what are we going to do with our pain? Are we going to blame others for it? Are we going to try to fix it?” If we don’t find some way to embrace the meaning of this “cross”…if we perpetually blame others or even buy into the lie that we are the “fixers” of the problems in the world, then we will miss out on the great “teacher” the cross can be. Another great sentence I read this morning;

“Though none of us want to admit it, if we cannot find transformation in our pain, we will transmit it to others in some form.”

The cross and empty tomb don’t take us back to ourselves for the attaining of our own perfection. They leave us on our knees seeking Jesus in whom is real healing, meaning, and life.

Since it is the beginning of Lent, some good words on “Spiritual disciplines” (especially in this case, “fasting”) from Dr. Scot McKnight

Lent’s Faux-Fasting (click to the left for the original posting of this article)

Too much of the fasting during Lent is faux-fasting. Here’s why.

Fasting — tis the season. Because it is the season a good question can be asked: What is fasting?

What is fasting?

Try defining it, and I’ll make a suggestion. Go ahead — in your mind define it.

Here’s my suggestion: If, in defining fasting, we are tempted to define fasting as something we do “in order to” get something, I suggest we need to look again at the deepest wells of the Christian fasting tradition: the Bible. In my book, FastingI suggest that in the Christian tradition we somehow got sidetracked.

We turned fasting into an instrument for personal spiritual formation, and in doing so lost one of its — if not its — key element. Fasting is not so instrumental in the Bible as it is responsive.

Fasting done to get something is faux fasting. Abstinence and fasting are not the same thing, so giving up chocolate for Lent is faux fasting.

Fasting done to get something is faux fasting. Abstinence and fasting are not the same thing, so giving up chocolate for Lent is faux fasting. I can hear the grumbles, so give me a chance here.

Instead of seeing fasting as a discipline we use, do, or practice “in order to” get answers to prayers, “in order to” become more attuned to God, or “in order to” become more spiritual, the Bible’s focus is on fasting as a response to life’s sacred, grievous moments. If in defining fasting you get quickly to the “in order” element… I suggest look again at the Bible.

So, how can we tell if we are fasting? Simple answer: Are you grieving or are you looking forward to something happening for you? If the former, fasting; if the latter, not fasting.

The Bible urges us to move away from seeing fasting as something done in order to get something, and exhorts us to learn to see it as a response to some grievous or sacred moment/event. (I use a letter system.)

A (grievous moment, like death and sin) –> B (act of fasting) –> C (benefit)

I hear too many suggest we should fast (B) in order to get (C). I suggest in my book that the biblical pattern is much more A (grievous, sacred moment) triggering the natural response of fasting (B), whether we get C or not. Furthermore, fasting is an act whereby we enter into the pathos of God regarding that grievous moment.

And one more element to think about as we enter Lent. To be sure, Lent is a time for fasting, but I suspect most of those who speak of “fasting” are talking about “abstinence” (not the same as what the Bible means by fasting). Fasting is suspension of all food (and sometimes drink) for a designated time — not the suspension of kinds of food (or internet, or social media). What happens when we use the word “fast” with “Twitter”? I suggest we are losing fundamental elements of fasting — the response to grievous, sacred moments.

The Church calendar is designed to embody the gospel itself on an annual basis: we begin the birth of the Messiah and then through a season called Epiphany and then we move into Lent and Holy Week with focus on Good Friday and Easter, and then we head for Pentecost and the rest of the year is called Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time is designed to focus on various elements of the Christian faith and mission. Lent prepares us for the gospel events — the life and death and resurrection of Jesus.

How do you prepare for Lent? Or how will you prepare for Lent? Or, from another angle, why do you not prepare for Lent?

Well, some will say, the NT doesn’t teach a church calendar and so there’s no need for it. To which I (really not “I” but the Church) say, “Hold on, dear friend.” God so ordained Israel’s life so that it would re-live and embody the great saving events in God’s relationship with Israel. So, let’s begin right there: God evidently really does care to institutionalize saving events into a calendrical form. The Christians, from very, very early, wisely restructured the calendar to be shaped by the saving events in the life of Jesus. (And I don’t say this to snub my messianic friends who are Jewish. I see no reason why we can’t combine the Christian calendar with Israel’s calendar.)

So, if we are going to fast, let’s fast.

Fascinating Article by Scot McKnight…for those of you who love Biblical “trivia”

Dr. Scot McKnight, Professor and prolific blogger, notes today in his most recent posts that there good reason to suspect that when Acts tells us that there were 1000’s of baptisms that occurred on the day of Pentecost, that they most likely took place in the “mikvahs” in Jerusalem.  For those of you who love to explore some of the “details” of the Bible, here’s some interesting reading:

3000 Baptisms: But Where in Jerusalem?  By Scot McKnight

We suggest they were baptized in mikvahs south of the temple.

One of the fascinating new scenarios our tour guide (Yoni Gerrish) brought to light concerned where the Christians were on the Day of Pentecost and where the baptisms could have occurred when 3000 suddenly were in need of baptism.

It takes a lot of water, or at least time, to baptize that many.

From Acts 2:29-42

“Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being, therefore, exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’ Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.” And he testified with many other arguments and exhorted them, saying, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” So those who welcomed his message were baptized, and that day about three thousand persons were added. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

How can you baptize 3000 in Jerusalem in one day? Water is scarce in most of Israel, especially in the Jordan Valley. The nearly perfected approach was cisterns that collected water through a series of small paths or channels, but it is only very remotely possible the first Christians were baptized in a cistern.

So, how was is possible to baptize so many? I see three possibilities: (1) in the Pool of Siloam at the bottom of the City of David (see picture at bottom), (2) in the pool of Bethesda on the north side of the temple, or (3) in ritual immersion pools called “mikveh” (singular) or “mikva’ot” (plural).

On this photo (below): I took this of a picture on wall next to the pool Siloam (blue pool at bottom) but the picture oddly is a mix of 1st-century walking path and the modern Muslim temple mount (mosque next to the southern wall and the Dome of the Rock, with its golden dome, closer to the northern edge). Kidron Valley is to right of the eastern wall, the Western Wall just to the right of the east-west wall in the middle of the temple area.

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If you look at the map you can see a road from the bottom to the southern edge of the temple (it is the “cardo” and runs along the Western Wall into the area at the top of the temple mount).

Along that path from Siloam to the temple, and especially along the southern slope of the temple, were as many as 500 mikva’ot.

The picture (below) of a mikveh is one I took three years ago at Qumran. You can see the steps down into the immersion pool so the person could immerse herself/himself. Such mikva’ot were often next to an “unstepped” pool filled with water, which could help create running water from one to the other.

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Where did they baptize? Yes, it is very reasonable to think they were baptized in these already-existing and already-about-purity mikva’ot. If you would like to read a solid explanation of the mikva’ot, see E.P. Sanders, Judaism: Practice and Belief, 364-378.

Some 500 mikva’ot means it would not have been difficult to find water for all 3000.

Who baptized them? One can guess that it was (1) Peter and John and the apostles, (2) the apostles and other leaders, or (which is likely) (3) they self-administered their baptism with their own confessions (self-administration was how mikveh immersions occurred). What about the babies? (That’s another discussion.)

Where was Peter preaching? Perhaps in that very area, too. Perhaps he was preaching to folks as they were ascending to the temple.

Why go to Church? Best reasons why!

3Last Sunday, I was looking out on the “crowd” at both of our faith communities…I was praying for our journey in faith together as well as the mission that Jesus has given us all to serve, love and share the good news of His kingdom. As I was thinking about you and praying for you, I thought I would quickly give you encouragement on WHY you should consider worship participation weekly one of your highest, personal priorities. In spite of all that goes on in ALL of our lives, there really are good reasons for you to be at worship weekly:
So, what are good reasons for you to go to church?
First of all, start with the absolute right reason – the briefest reason – and at very least, the right biblical reason:
God has showered his creation with His unconditional love – we are made by His own hand – we are his masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10) and because of that truth, you and I want to respond to that gift by praising Him, learning more about Him, and by surrounding myself with people who will encourage one another in our walk with Him.
Sounds good huh? If that’s true for you, and I imagine it is at least in part, that’s a great reason!
Reason number one on WHY to worship regularly in our faith community is this – the only appropriate response to the gift of life is worship. Do you know what that means? Worship is an acknowledgment that what we have in life, all of it is a gift! And because of that, God is WORTHY to be praised! God is worthy to be praised because of the gift of mercy, grace, forgiveness, breath, health, family, friends…list goes on and on.
The second best reason for you to be at worship has to do with your spiritual journey. For some reason that we can only attribute to God, you realize in the depth of your gut somehow that HOW you are believing is not complete and that you are on a journey. You realize, like I do, that you are not perfect and you need to be at worship so that God can remind you of that fact and draw you to Himself in love.
Friends – this is how it is:
We journey through life…daily life…24 hours….we live, work, sleep, eat, do our jobs around the house. We discuss, we relax, we do our daily stuff and we do it day after day after day. We just go about our daily life and work. We wake up to a dog eat dog world with growing dis-ease and unhappiness and loneliness and stress. Yet over time, the truly honest and reflective among us start to wonder that there has got to be MORE to life than anxiety, doing stuff, making money, etc. Sooner or later every person comes face to face with a question – “is that all there is?”
Some refuse to go “there” or flippantly blow past that question in their pursuit to master reality or at least be the master of their OWN reality (which they will never do). But most of us would intuitively say, “NO – there’s got to be more.” For most, if not all of us, we know that there’s got to be more because when we’re doing other, less mundane activities – resting, dreaming, painting, making music, telling stories or simply playing, something inside of us comes alive.
I bet you don’t know this but scientists are telling us these days that there are inexplainable realities of human existence that are hard-wired into our sense of being. They are saying that there is meaning beyond the mundane and daily existence that we all live. Could it be that God has hard-wired for a spiritual journey? I believe so! That something inside of us, what the Bible calls our spirit/heart, betrays our narcissism and our belief in a “reality only” world. Our spirit, our heart gives us another world to investigate, explore and to live in because there is more to life than just what we see on a daily existence level. What is kind of amazing (at least this is my guess) is that most of our neighbors think that we go to church because we believe in something. For many of us that is true…I believe in things – you do too. BUT what many of our neighbors DON’T know is that in our church gatherings, we stand on and rely most of the time on just the opposite – we adhere to and hold on to the fact that being together, praying, reading, singing, opening ourselves up to the Mystery of God’s presence and love shapes what we believe. Participating in church leads to believing; practicing our faith bolsters our faith; the rituals of our faith change what the world means and how we live in it. Our trust in Jesus creates new worlds and those worlds alter the everyday world.
Although we share everyday life with many people whose story is mostly based on fear, limitation, and scarcity, Jesus reminds us that a person living fully in God has few fears. To be “in Christ” means to experience a kind of freedom from the tyranny of our ego or other’s egos. To be “in Christ” means more fully becoming the children of God that we were created to be. To be “in Christ” affirms our baby steps through life as a journey of discovery of more and more of who God is and can be in this life. It is providing us each and together with a sense of security in insecure times and giving us a sense of freedom that can’t be given to us by any other means but Jesus.
What are we doing in worship? We are sorting through our mixed motives and mysterious desires. We are learning God’s story again. We freely admit we are on a journey together and that we need each other, we need community in order to experience the world the way that God created it to be experienced. We are returning home so that we can go with power into the everyday world.
The third and final reason (at least for this letter of encouragement) we go to church because it is our CHOICE – we are proactively shaping our lives by acting on a God-sized vision of who God is creating us to be.
A number of years ago, a good friend put a book into my hands that addressed how our lives are formed in a positive, healthy manner. The book said, “we all need to A.C.T.”
ACT – Awareness, Create a vision, Take Action on that vision
Every week at church – that’s exactly what we do. Biblically, our confession is our awareness that we are broken. It is our sharing in public that we need healing…that we need love and we need Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we have received a Godly vision, one given to us by God to “love God, love others, live like Jesus.” We want to make life complicated, but Jesus doesn’t. He has a vision of grace that He gives to us …a gift of forgiveness offered freely for the receiving. That’s what we do regularly in worship. But more than that, we challenge each other to understand (and own) that God empowers us through His Spirit to act on that vision. You see friends, faith is a gift given to us by the Holy Spirit so that we can take steps of belief. We are, in many respects, just like the apostle Peter walking on water – we are always beckoned by Jesus to take our steps out of the boat of security. Friends, faith is a gift of God but it is also an act of the will, That’s why it is an act of the will to attend church so that we can continue to have that faith explored, nurtured, and strengthened.
The closest friends that Jesus had were the most doubtful, fallen, confused bunch of dudes that you could ever imagine. We can easily come to the conclusion in reading the Bible that absolute adherence is NOT the gospel way. Faith working itself out in love – faith and action – taking steps out of the boat side by side – sinking and being raised again – growing in our trust of Jesus with each other – learning His will, His truth, and His ways – that’s what we do in worship together.
Think about this as I close this note of encouragement – faith – there is a cognitive aspect to it but it is not PURELY or dependent upon the intellect. That is why we have things we call the Sacraments – because the mysteries of God pull us into another reality. Jesus is present in Communion? Really? How? Well, we really don’t know…but we know by virtue of His promises that He is and because of that, we know He is calling us, just as He did with Peter, to take steps together out of the boat and into the swirling seas of life, depending on nothing more than His presence and promises.
Here’s where I want to end because I don’t want you to EVER DOUBT what I am all about when it comes to why I do what I do. I want to do life in Jesus with people. I want to do what I just have been talking about – taking steps of faith, responding to God’s amazing grace and love. And I especially want to act on this vision – I want to create with you a space for ALL people to contemplate God and their lives, to explore the love of God and the need they have for love in their hearts, to consider God and their pain in a space of freedom and acceptance and then to journey together to encourage others to do the same. We need to be building rooms for people to explore the journey of faith. We need to be building a faith community where we give people space to NOT be certain but to figure things out in the presence and grace of Jesus Christ and in the company of the Holy Spirit. We need to be building a faith community that is dedicated to telling the “old, old story – of Jesus and His love.”
You may not be able to fully articulate it – but you should be drawn to weekly worship! Yeah, you could download a sermon, listen to podcast, and get together with people to share life. Jesus did say, “where two or more are gathered, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18). But you know, deep in your heart, that of which the Spirit of God has been convincing you, true living and true meaning and true belonging is not passive. True belonging isn’t about fitting in or selling out but rather it is a practice that is open, vulnerable, at times uncomfortable, where you are learning how to be present with Jesus and other people.
Friends, never doubt this – Church attendance isn’t about cowardliness and it is never a crutch – it is rather a HUGE act of courage. Yes, courage where you are choosing what is right and meaningful over what is easy or convenient or that which only brings pleasure to your senses. Jesus followers want to be in a place regularly and enthusiastically where you are a partner in creating safe spaces for people to explore abundant life in Jesus and to do life together in Jesus. That’s why I pray you make a commitment to weekly worship! That’s why I pray we will be encouragers of people to join our journey. For to convert them, that’s Jesus’ job. But we can walk with them in discovering more and more of the life that God intends for ALL of us to experience.
Where will you be THIS Sunday?
Sincerely shared with you in love…

“Stinkin Thinkin?”

1Devotion Adaptation
From Father Richard Rohr’s blog post on “Stinkin thinkin”

For many of us these words of Father Rohr will strike home into the depth of our hearts. Why? Because from an early age, we learned to listen MORE to the voice of self-talk aimed at criticism than from that still, small voice that speaks to our heart with love. There’s nothing more haunting than that voice of condemnation inside of you that constantly badgers your soul. It doesn’t even matter if you are operating in areas of your life where you feel especially gifted, trained and prepared. The voice speaks…it speaks poison that festers into self-hatred. Yes, we can attempt to cover it up or escape it but sooner or later everyone has to deal with the “voice.”

Father Rohr gives, as usual, special insight into this issue. For those of you who read the paragraph above and said to yourself, “how did Robin know what’s going on in my head,” I have good news for you. It’s time to silent that voice or, at very least, drown it out with a voice that is louder and brings with it life-giving affirmation and love. Here’s what Richard Rohr recently wrote,

“Although we begin life, as very young children, as non-dual thinkers, usually by the age of seven we are all dualistic thinkers, and sadly many of us stay that way for the rest of our lives. Dualistic thinking is the well-practiced pattern of knowing most things by comparison. And for some reason, once we compare or label things (that is, judge things), we almost always conclude that one is good and the other not so good or even bad.

Don’t take my word for it; just notice your own thoughts and reactions. You will see that you will move almost automatically into a pattern of up or down, in or out, for me or against me, right or wrong, black or white, good or bad. It is the basic reason why the “stinkin’ thinkin’” of racism, sexism, classism, religious imperialism, and prejudice of all kinds is so hard to overcome and has lasted so long—even among nice people!

At the risk of being too cleverly alliterative (though it may help you to remember), here is the normal sequencing of the dualistic mind: it compares, it competes, it conflicts, it conspires, it condemns, it cancels out any contrary evidence, and then it crucifies with impunity. You can call it the seven C’s of delusion. This is the source of most violence…especially within ourselves. There is a reason why Jesus says, “Do not judge!” and why angels in the Bible are always saying, “Do not be afraid!” Our violence—and almost all of our unhappiness—emerges from our judging, dualistic mind—which itself comes from deeply rooted fear.”

What struck me about Rohr’s thoughts had as much to do with what he didn’t write as it did with what he did write…in other words, what appears to be an “outside of me” type of mentality is REALLY something that starts insidiously INSIDE of me (and you). “Stinkin Thinkin” always starts as the comparison, dualistic mind starts to hammer us on the inside with words of comparison (“I’m not as handsome or pretty as he/she is” or “I’ll never be that good”), competition (“I know when I look at myself that I’m a loser”), conflicts (“I’m going to get my way no matter what it costs me”), conspires (“I’ll do whatever I need to do even if it betrays my values to get what I want”), cancelling thoughts (“they are lying to me, I can’t believe what they said about me”) and finally with that proverbial stake through our heart (“I wish I were dead”). You might think I am a bit overdramatic but, trust me, many people I know and love deal with this inner critic ALL the time.

It’s time to silence that voice and to hear the words of love that can be transformative and life-refreshing to our souls. Read these words from Psalm 139:

“God, You know me inside and out,
you know every bone in my body;
You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit,
how I was sculpted from nothing into something.
Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth;
all the stages of my life were spread out before you,
The days of my life all prepared
before I’d even lived one day.”

The beauty of those words are this – God knows us in a deeper manner than we even know ourselves and He still loves us…He still heals and forgives…He still restores and refreshes…He still, He still, He still. The only voice I know that is stronger than the inner critic is the one that called the Universe into existence. The only way to silence the dualistic mind is to understand that for God, He sees you through ONE prism…that of love. I know I need that word daily and my guess is, you do too!

Another priceless bit of encouragement…

1Most of you who have occasionally dropped in on this blog know that I am a HUGE fan of Ann Voskamp.  I have read her books, I regularly receive her emails, and I have been inspired and challenged in my faith and life by Ann’s insights for years.  If you don’t receive her emails or if you have NOT read any of her books, here’s my encouragement to you – DO IT!

Yesterday Ann published her personal story of how she has changed her life regarding physical “movement” as well as Bible reading.  Her post was very insightful – not only about reading God’s word but the importance of movement for health, both physically and spiritually.  I thought I would post today some of the “gems” that come from that post:

When you challenge yourself to move, you challenge your own perception of self.

And then on the hardest days, when I did hard things anyways: I was stuck by the epiphany:  Moving every day is how you move through stress.

I found: If you don’t move daily, you experience stress obstruction in your soul.  When I move, stress moves out of me. 

Movement is a free strategy against discouragement.

And I moved every day not at a gym, but outside. Moving outside creates something of a miracle inside. The Japanese have a term for moving outside into nature; they call it “forest bathing.”  But I call it “Glory Soaking.” Because the whole earth is full of His glory, moving outside calms a heart full of trouble.  Daily Glory Soaks cleanse the mind, so the heart can fill with hope. When you feel like you’re drowning, a Glory Soak outside can keep the soul afloat on the inside. Running under trees began to root my soul.

Moving under sky moved me toward God.

And when I couldn’t run away from the relentless story of failure that kept running on replay in my head, I began to listen to His Word while I ran and I let God’s Story in me play louder than any other story around me.

“I began to listen to His Word while I ran and I let God’s Story in me play louder than any other story around me.”

When I listened to Scripture while running, I could run away from the narrative of me and right into the narrative of grace.  The relief of this was everything. I turned off all the noise of news and drama and distractions around me, and all the noise of fear and failure within me, and I just ran with my headset in, leaning into the language of God. With every step, worries quieted, hushed, stilled — and all I could hear was the voice of God in my headsets, heart keeping time with His.

I move less for my physical health and more for the health of my soul.

And we have more than enough time every day to move toward physical, mental and soul health.  Every single one of us has 1,440 minutes every single day — and every single one of us can use 30 of those minutes to move in some way, while being moved by the Word of God, to change the health of our whole lives.  30 minutes a day of movement — will change every other moment of your life. Guaranteed.

This is what changed my life as I started moving and the let the Word of God move me:

God became my Pacesetter.  God is my Pacer — and I just stay with the Pacer so I can finish impossible races.  God is the steady, the consistent, the voice at the ear who shows how to take the next step, and the next step after that. I don’t have to keep up to anyone else — I simply have to keep company with God. I simply have to keep close to Him.

As I physically moved, and was spiritually moved by His Word, thoughts began to move through my mind differently, I began to process my world differently.  I felt stronger, braver, not just physically, but especially emotionally.  The anxiety ebbed, the hope grew, hope that something was growing in me that I could rise to any challenge.

Turns out: Courage is highly contagious, and bravery to do a Hard Thing in one aspect of your life, quickly spreads to all of your life.

If I let my feet literally keep rhythm with God, fears stop driving my life.  If I put one step in front of the other, I move past all kinds of paralysis.  If I tune my heart, my feet, me ears, to Him, I tune out everything that is making me anxious.  If I stay in The Story, my life stays the course.

People keep asking me if I am training for a race. And the answer is yes: I am throwing off everything that hinders (Hebrews 12:1) and training to run with perseverance and finish the race marked out before us, to keep the faith (2 Timothy 4:7).

The answer is yes: I am literally learning how to put one step in front of the other, to carry on, to keep carrying on.  The answer is yes: As I move, I’m moving beyond a life limited by smallness, by fears, by pain, by regrets, and I’m moving into God.

Move and you begin to move farther, and further up and deeper in, than you ever imagined. Move and Hope moves into you. Move and you move into a new identity.

YES, I can change, YES, I can do hard and holy things because they are the next thing to get to the best thing, YES, I can let God move into me, YES, God can move into all of my moments, YES, my new identity is found fully in Him, YES to whatever this day and decade and road holds, YES, I can be moved by God who is always making a way for me to MOVE FORWARD!