Tuesday, September 22, 2009

mind lovin' -- part two

Perhaps you can file this under strange… or not.

About two weeks ago, I began to notice a ringing in my ears. A steady high-pitched tone.

Now for the most part, I do not hear this ‘ringing’ constantly, but I quickly realized that I could focus and bring this tone to the forefront whenever I wanted to. Like it was always there, but I rarely noticed it unless I focused my attention.

Once in a while, it would find its way into my head on its own accord. Often, while I was in prayer. Or reading scripture.

Not surprisingly, I’ve come to associate this tone with the presence of God. Much of the time it is silent, my attention elsewhere. There are times when it comes into my head, drawing my attention to the Lord. And there are times when I go “looking for it” – quickly comforted by its presence.

I hear it now, loudly, and it makes me smile.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

mind lovin' - part one

Love the Lord your God with all your mind.

When the NFL schedule comes out, you scan down week by week and look for the easy games… the ones where you can count on your team coming out on top.

A month ago, when I decided to spend some time meditating on Mark 12: 28-30, my eyes immediately jumped down to this segment “with all your mind”. Sure, I could struggle through that whole heart and soul thing, but once we came to “mind” I would be in my natural environment. It would be an easy win.

After all, I am a “mind guy”. Love to think, imagine, strategize, calculate, create. Left side or right, take your pick. Find the needle in the haystack, see the forest despite all them trees. I couldn’t wait to come here and share with you what it means to love the Lord with all your mind. An epic series for sure. Three posts, maybe more.

And yet…

For a week now, I’ve sat before the Lord and pondered what it means to love God with all my mind, and I’ve come up empty. No words of inspiration, no free-flowing prose. Another day would come and go. Nothing to share with you again.

And then this morning, my eyes opened.

My mind belongs to me. It is mine. It is the one place I can go to get away. I can be sitting with you having an intelligent conversation and be two other places at the same time. Mental multi-tasking. I reflect, project, think, ponder, fantasize and analyze… and it’s the only thing I can call my own.

Sure, I invite God in. Most of my conversations with Father, Christ and Spirit are voiceless. Even when praying intently, though, I’ll catch myself having two or three other streams of thought happening at the same time. It’s also where I go to hide and get away when so moved. It’s my safe place. And I don’t want to give it away.

So tonight I am going to reflect on another passage in Mark, now seen under a new light. It reads: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

I’ve never been one hung up on money, but perhaps riches come in many shapes and sizes. If so moved, please feel free to share in what ways are you rich...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

unfinished business: mark 12: 28-30

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Shema Yisrael (Hear, O Israel) are the first words of a section of the Torah that is a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer service. You can imagine Joseph teaching his son this prayer early in his young life. It is a prayer that Jesus, a devout Jew, may have recited 20,000 times in his life… probably more.

In this prayer, the word LOVE is mentioned once. GOD twice. And the word LORD three times. One word, however, is repeated four times in this two sentence prayer. The word, perhaps, that ensures this is a never-ending journey and not something we can simply cross off our to-do list. A life-long mission known as ALL.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

The conversation cited above between Jesus and the teacher of the law took place two days after Jesus arrived triumphantly in Jerusalem. Two days before his last supper. And I wonder today, whether Jesus – who lived a perfect life – had yet to complete his life-long journey himself. While the Gospel records how he had loved the Lord, his Father, with his heart, soul, mind and strength over his three year ministry, something was still missing. ALL.

So let’s look at what Jesus does next.

He loved the Lord with ALL his heart.
At dinner, Jesus announced that one among his inner circle would betray him. As heartbreaking as that must have been, he then added that his best friend, his right hand man, would disown him. Jesus responds by giving thanks and praise to God.

He lover the Lord with ALL his soul.
In the Garden called Gethsemane, Jesus fell to the ground in prayer, his soul overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Devastated, he closed his conversation with God with four words that sealed his fate: thy will be done.

He loved the Lord with ALL his mind.
Standing before Pilate, Jesus heard the false testimony against him. Accusations and contradictions. With any outburst, perhaps he could have saved his life. To the amazement of all, he remained true to God and made no reply—not even to a single charge.

He loved the Lord with ALL his strength.
Already exhausted in the garden, Jesus would not sleep. He would subject himself to beatings, forty lashes and a crown of thorns. Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull to be crucified.

Every morning and every evening for most of his 33 years on earth, Jesus prayed the Shema. Twenty-thousand times he recited 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’

And here, at the peak of Golgatha, his journey came to a close. He had absolutely nothing left to give God. He had given it all.

A destination achieved, a life-ling prayer fulfilled, he looked up to heaven. Fittingly, he final words convey so much. “It is finished.
Are you ready to follow Jesus’ example? Are you ready to give your all?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

soul lovin’ – part three

My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.

In the place called Gethsemane, Peter, James and John stood watch while Jesus fell to the ground and prayed. One friend had betrayed him, another about to deny him, a night and day of humiliation, torture and death before him. And Jesus’ soul was overwhelmed.

Reading this passage this morning, it dawned on me that Jesus must have been physically drained as he headed to the garden. When you consider the events of that week, it’s not surprising. His three disciples could not even keep their eyes open; time and again the heaviness of sleep overcame them. Jesus must have been exhausted too… and yet no sleep would come until he closed his eyes in victory on the cross. Tired, and yet his work not yet begun.

Physically weary, emotionally shaken. And yet, at this critical crossroads, the gospel writes about something much deeper – his soul.

I wonder if I could get to a point where my soul is overwhelmed by anything… joy, love, sorrow, grief. Perhaps to reach your “all” you first need to go all in.

Love the Lord your God with all your soul.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

soul lovin’ – part two

Love the Lord your God with all your soul.

In response to an earlier post, Bob O’Kansas remarks: I sometimes think that it means to love God with our whole being.

Our whole being.

A few months back in church (of all places) there was a moment, albeit brief, where I felt that I was loving God with my whole being.

Normally, there is a time during Sunday service for music. Each week is different, but most times there’s a segment of three or four songs – it could be a rock band or a simple guitar. Sometimes a flute. Usually contemporary… once in a while a rap.

On this particular Sunday, Sam played and sang alone. He played one song, that I recall had one line of lyrics, and he played this combination of notes, interspersed with that one line of singing, for thirty minutes. Maybe forty.

The first three minutes were interesting. Then it got weird. It was time for the next song, one with some more lyrics perhaps, but Sam continued to play the same notes. Sing the same line of praise. Over. And over.

It soon became uncomfortable, and my eyes scooted around the room. I was clearly not alone.

But after another five minutes something strange happened. I decided to just go with it. And I focused my attention to the notes. Each note. And the combinations. And the vibrations that echoed from the guitar. And I loved the Lord.

Bob says to love the lord with our whole being, and in this case I could feel the moment taking over… through my body. My limbs. The hairs on my head and the tips of my toes. The blood pouring through my veins.

And as the moment continued, the discomfort faded. And for one moment, I could feel the individual cells in my body dancing, dancing in praise for God, each individual living cell, like this massive orchestra, a million strong, singing together – praise and glory to God.

Praise and glory to God.

This morning I tried to recapture that moment. Didn’t get there 100%, but closer than I’ve been in a while.

Go ahead… try loving the Lord your God with all your soul today.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

soul lovin' -- part one

Love the Lord your God with all your soul.

My earliest concept of the human soul was framed by my first grade teacher, Sister Bernadette Marie.

I remember visualizing the soul as an actual entity, like a spirit or apparition. When we were behaving and free from sin, our soul was pure, white. But when we did something wrong, we added a stain on our souls. Creating black marks, blemishes on eternal life.

As we prepared for confession at the age of eight, we were taught the power of confession. And forgiveness. How we could take our soul in for a wash and come out sparkling white again, no matter how dirty we had gotten.

In some ways, my soul became a scorecard. The place where God kept track of my sins, and where Jesus would apply his loving eraser.

And when we died, our souls would live on… in heaven or hell… depending on how it looked on our final day.

At least that’s what I remember.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Spending some time this week before God, I am trying to focus on my soul… to love God with all of my soul. And it doesn’t quite feel like a scorecard.

One student of the bible writes, “Quite often in everyday language, men get it right about the soul, whereas Theologians miss the mark. Such expressions as.... ‘the poor old soul’... or ‘hundreds of souls perished’ readily convey in the true sense that the reference is to people.

The author continues, noting that the international distress signal, SOS, which some translate as SAVE OUR SOULS, is not a plea to rescue something which is invisible or intangible, but rather to rescue the whole being—that those concerned might hold on to life and be restored alive to loved ones.

Wikepedia also notes that definitions vary within Christian circles.

Other Christians reject the idea of the immortality of the soul, citing the Apostles' Creed's reference to the "resurrection of the body" (the Greek word for body is soma σωμα, which implies the whole person, not sarx σαρξ, the term for flesh or corpse). They consider the soul to be the life force, which ends in death and is restored in the resurrection. Theologian Frederick Buechner sums up this position in his 1973 book Whistling in the Dark: "...we go to our graves as dead as a doornail and are given our lives back again by God (i.e., resurrected) just as we were given them by God in the first place.

Hmmm. More to follow…