Via Negativa

Why no! I never thought other than
That God is that great absence
In our lives, the empty silence
Within, the place where we go
Seeking, not in hope to
Arrive or find. He keeps the interstices
In our knowledge, the darkness
Between stars. His are the echoes
We follow, the footprints he has just
Left. We put our hands in
His side hoping to find
It warm. We look at people
And places as though he had looked
At them, too; but miss the reflection.

R.S. Thomas (1913-2000)

Colossians 1:15-23

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Q&A on "The Slow Fade"

Below is an interview on "The Slow Fade: Why You Matter In the Story of Twentysomethings," a new book I co-authored with Reggie Joiner and Chuck Bomar.

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Q: In your book, The Slow Fade, you relay that statistics show somewhere between 65 and 80% of people who grow up in church will drop out of church when they become college-aged. How long has this been going on?

A: The trend of eighteen- to twenty-five-year-olds disengaging from church and faith has been a growing problem for more than twenty years. While those who are college-aged are increasingly fading out of the picture, mainstream denominations and independent churches are slowly graying and declining in attendance. The sad news is that churches’ strategies to reach these twentysomethings have not significantly adjusted to respond to this issue. When you ask the average church what their plan is for college-aged people, you usually get confused looks. Frankly, twentysomethings are perceived by most leaders in churches as a transient demographic, people who don’t tithe and who need to solidify their faith on their own.

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All the Single Ladies

I 'm prepping for a talk on “Single Women in Ministry” and would love your feedback. What comes to mind when you hear that phrase? Who/what (if anything) has been meaningful to you toward feeling included in the church, or complete in your identity as a single? (Marrieds and men with feedback, feel free to pipe-in!)

Discipline

“Discipline, spiritual or otherwise, is a good servant, but a bad master. It is not the summum bonum—the supreme good. When it is valued in and of itself, the disciplined life easily leads to rigidity and pride…Jesus showed nothing of this rigidity. Although the strength of his resolve and consistency of his spiritual disciplines are striking, he lived a life characterized by flexibility, not predictability. He was constantly surprising people—always capable of spontaneously embracing the opportunities of the moment, never compulsively grasping the safety of the habitual. His discipline served to align his will and his spirit with God’s will and God’s Spirit. But this discipline was not dependent on external rigidity. It sprang from a heart that was aflame with the love of God, not a will that was striving for self-control. Pride and rigidity are the chain-mail armor we use to protect ourselves from vulnerability.” -David Benner
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Sin versus Purity

The wages of sin seem apparent to me as death this hour. Not in the funeral, graveside sense of the word, though those are evidenced as well, but what confounds me this morning is death’s residue within contexts of life--sin's ability to rob my abundance of true living, by heart-centered suffocation of awakeness to my Purified state, clean and complete.

What confounds me is sin's enticing pursuit of me as life’s center. Likewise, then, its rejection of others, and the grandiose Story of others being an integral part of mine, and vice versa. I lose sight of ubuntu*. I lose sight of what is real, unloosing my senses to that which is not. I lose sight of the fact that I am lovable- that we are creatures worth loving.

What's confounding of sin today is its ability to embitter me, detaching me in an instant from from that which I truly love. I am infatuated by its choice, and similarly, by its choice of me. Choosing sin, in my case, often means choosing ecstatic pleasures of the moment—ecstacies that will romance me for a lifetime, but satisfy me not for a day. And often I concede to sin’s choosing of me (not on a basis of my Value, but in vehement commitment to arousing addictions toward that which is not). I’d rather be picked, it seems, than believe in patience that truer Love is beckoning to pick me. I’d rather be sought after in my insecurity, or inability, or inconsistency, or inadequacy, even if by an illusion…than accept my purity, and guard it as if my sole means to all Seeing.

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I Asked the Lord

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;

Fearing Emptyness

We are afraid of emptiness. Spinoza speaks about our "horror vacui," our horrendous fear of vacancy. We like to occupy-fill up-every empty time and space. We want to be occupied. And if we are not occupied we easily become preoccupied; that is, we fill the empty spaces before we have even reached them. We fill them with our worries, saying, "But what if ..."

It is very hard to allow emptiness to exist in our lives. Emptiness requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen. It requires trust, surrender, and openness to guidance. God wants to dwell in our emptiness. But as long as we are afraid of God and God's actions in our lives, it is unlikely that we will offer our emptiness to God. Let's pray that we can let go of our fear of God and embrace God as the source of all love.

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A Lenten Prayer

The Lenten season begins. It is a time to be with you, Lord, in a special way, a time to pray, to fast, and thus to follow you on your way to Jerusalem, to Golgotha, and to the final victory over death.

I am still so divided. I truly want to follow you, but I also want to follow my own desires and lend an ear to the voices that speak about prestige, success, pleasure, power, and influence. Help me to become deaf to these voices and more attentive to your voice, which calls me to choose the narrow road to life.

I know that Lent is going to be a very hard time for me. The choice for your way has to be made every moment of my life. I have to choose thoughts that are your thoughts, words that are your words, and actions that are your actions. There are not times or places without choices. And I know how deeply I resist choosing you.

Please, Lord, be with me at every moment and in every place. Give me the strength and the courage to live this season faithfully, so that, when Easter comes, I will be able to taste with joy the new life that you have prepared for me.

Amen.

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Being Merciful with Ourselves

We need silence in our lives. We even desire it. But when we enter into silence we encounter a lot of inner noises, often so disturbing that a busy and distracting life seems preferable to a time of silence. Two disturbing "noises" present themselves quickly in our silence: the noise of lust and the noise of anger. Lust reveals our many unsatisfied needs, anger or many unresolved relationships. But lust and anger are very hard to face.  What are we to do? Jesus says, "Go and learn the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice" (Matthew 9:13). Sacrifice here means "offering up," "cutting out," "burning away," or "killing." We shouldn't do that with our lust and anger. It simply won't work. But we can be merciful toward our own noisy selves and turn these enemies into friends.
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Life. Living. Becoming human. Loving. Love. Learning to love. Being. Growth. Death. Birth. Laughter. Tears. Friendship. Hope. Dreams. Longing. Desire. Rebirth. Failure. Silence. Noise. Joy. Fear. Pain. Story. Peace.


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