Carpe Aeternum

Finding the Eternal in the Every Day

Archive for the tag “mercy”

Every Breath a Prayer

I have been exploring meditation. Trying to learn to slow myself down and do little more than just breathe a few minutes each morning. Most days, of the days that I do it, I can do about five to ten minutes before it becomes a struggle.. Occasionally I can last a little longer. And some days, I just can’t/won’t even start.

Sometimes this feels like when I was a kid trying to learn to hold my breath longer and longer so I could swim farther underwater.

The days that I meditate tend to go better than the days I don’t. The obvious value is physiological. I slow down my life a little. I slow down my breathing, which slows down my heart. It helps relieve my stress. Less stress, even if for only part of my day is a good thing. Doing this in the morning helps me prevent my stress levels from getting a good running start before my day really gets going. If I start worrying about work problems, or a crowded schedule or something I forgot to get done yesterday right as I get out of bed, then I will feel overwhelmed before I can do anything about resolving any of those problems.

And physiologically I don’t need that. I have enough health issues without compounding them with stress. Without creating new health issues born of stress.

But is it something miraculous about meditation? Perhaps. I do believe in the spiritual realm and the power of spiritual disciplines to make our lives better. I think that part of the value derives from the spiritual act in itself.

Richard Rohr talks about the importance of breathing in the spiritual realm. He explains that the unpronounceable name of God (YHWH) is traditionally expressed as the sounds we make as we breathe. The first syllable equates to an inhale and the second to exhaling. Thus every breath we take is calling upon the name of God. Literally, every breath is a prayer. Our lives depend on God so much that we are repeating his name over and over and over each day.

That means every breath is a cry for God’s mercy and compassion to keep me alive. It is then very much a quiet thanks for that incredible gift.

Scripture gives stories of God breathing into Adam, or the reconstructed bodies in the valley of dry bones. His breathe brings life. The Holy Spirit is referred to in terms of breath, of God or Jesus breathing on people and they receive the inflow of his presence.

The very word inspiration, to breathe in, also means to take in spirit.

For a few minutes everyday, I try to be aware that this is happening, to slow down, calm down and just breathe. In those brief moments I do find peace. I do feel closer to a God that I am calling to every few seconds and who responds to me each time. A conversation that continues when I am not aware of it, even continues as I sleep.

Take a deep breath now and enjoy knowing that you and God are connected.

Wrath of a Merciful God

For years various Christians, some claiming to be prophets, have warned of God’s wrath falling on America because of our immorality. We have been very, very naughty and we need to be spanked. You know, in a righteous, not sexy way. No fetish indulgence here.

But is immorality truly the America’s worst sin? If God were to punish us, would that be the reason?

By my reading of scripture, it seems the two things that seem to piss of God more than anything else, and I mean, really piss him off to the degree to bring famine or economic collapse or invasion by enemy armies, that top two does not include immorality.

The things that made God lash out at his chosen people, seem to be idolatry – placing other gods ahead of him, and injustice – not caring for the poor, the needy, the outcast, the destitute. The stories in scripture where God lashes out stem from these.

Scripture teems with calls to care for those with less. Typically this comes as providing food to the hungry, but this has far more manifestations. Those with are expected to share with those without. If you have food and someone doesn’t, share. If you have power and someone else does not, protect them. If you have strength and they are weak, use that strength to help. Freely dispense your wisdom, knowledge and justice.

The real struggle of this roots itself in personal wealth. Conceptually we may agree with this but to actually take my money and give it to someone else is hard. It seems like it’s hard to give away my food. Yet I throw food away. As a nation, we throw out an obscene amount of wasted food. But I feel like I don’t have abundance to share, that my margin is too slim for real generosity.

Fatherhood taught me a lot about justice. It is not making sure that both have the same number of cookies, although that can be part of it. It is holding and comforting the one that has been hurt. It is redirecting the one who has hurt the other. It is teaching them to share and take turns. It is teaching them to help each other.

And, from the place of power and abundance, it is me lifting them to places they can’t get. It is me preparing meals, or providing food. From my excess, I meet their needs.

According to Christian and Jewish scriptures, the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. This only second to loving God. Basically these two commandments sum up the triggers to God’s ire. When asked, Jesus defined neighbors, he told the parable of the Good Samaritan; his response stood religion and cultural convention on its head.

Jesus wants us to love those we chose to reject, those we despise and deride the most. He expects us to love and serve those we would reject if they tried to help us. As a society, we do not do this. In the wake of the election, it appears that much of our nation is running the opposite direction from this.

If there is any reason for God to kick America’s ass, it is the lack of justice. Racism runs rampant. Poverty continues to grow. LGBTQ people still suffer abuse, hate and violence. My friends of Mexican descent now fear being deported, even if they are citizens. We stand on the brink of repeating the sins of the Nazis by registering Muslims. Collectively we fear helping refugees from war torn countries more than we fear the repercussions of rejecting them.

America used to be the land of opportunity. For everyone. Just like the words on the statue of liberty proclaim, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.” Now, America is only the land of opportunity for the privileged.

This is a land of abundance. A land of wealth. A land of power.

And a land of injustice.

We should be terrified that God might call us into account for that imbalance. Many want to call the United States a Christian nation but we are not. A land that so blatantly and arrogantly dismisses those in need and Christ’s teachings about that cannot call themselves his people. That would be taking his name in vain. For those of you who aren’t aware, that’s early on in the list of big bad things not to do. Jesus said we can experience forgiveness to the degree we are ready to dispense it. What if the same is true of mercy?

If it is, we are in a world of hurt.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 7

In the Vineyard (the denomination that I attend) they often bounce around this phrase: Faith is spelled R-I-S-K.  Actually taking some sort of a risk is promoted, typically in a realm where it puts our faith on the line and we have to expect God to do what scriptures say he’ll do.

My last post here I mentioned that I want to try to take more risks. So, as a good Vineyard boy, I should be doing churchy things to accomplish that. And in some ways, that is a good place to start.  The idea of praying for people and expecting God to make a difference always stretches me. Even if I’m comfortable with the concept, the environment and the person being prayed for, I still feel a little worried that it won’t turn out the way I want.  The way I want shouldn’t be the issue, but what God will do for the person we are lifting in prayer should matter, but I focus more on what I want. Like not looking stupid.

So, again, this is a decent springboard for me. If for nothing else, taking the risk of looking stupid in order to see if God will interact in someone’s life.  But I think some slightly bigger risks might be in order. Like accepting the opportunity to preach in two weeks.

I am one of those odd people who like to speak in public. I get nervous and I worry about what to say, but it’s fun to d while I’m doing it. I look forward to it. But there is always the fear boiling inside of me that I have nothing of significance to say. Or that even if I do that my audience will not understand it or care. In short I fear that my efforts, though fun, will be pointless.

But beyond that, and maybe this is one of those for the future things, is meeting people. Quite honestly, I’d rather speak in public than meet people. I hate meeting people. It is too personal. Speaking to a group is a bit removed and not as risky because of that. If they don’t like me it’s they. If I meet you and you don’t like me, that is a tangible real person; you are not they. So someday, as this “taking risks to develop the ability to take bigger risks to tell a better story grows out of me trying to get a life”, I will have to meet some people. I will have to man up and make some new friends. Or enemies. Or more likely, acquaintances.

So, baby steps. Risky baby steps aiming toward that eventual big leap. God, have mercy on me.

The Miracle of Prayer

So often I approach prayer as a discipline. I need to do it each day, preferably on schedule. I allot time for it. Usually in the morning before the day has begun. And then I try to fulfill my obligation to actually do it.
More frequently I forget to as it falls prey to other urgent priorities. Sometimes apathy is just greater than the obligation to pray. And, depending on the reason for not praying, I feel guilty about it and vow to do better next time. Or just continue to not do it because it is always easier to not do something than it is to do it.
Then I hear tales of people that pray beyond any sense of what I consider reasonable, great preachers or saints that prayed large portions of their days or prayed extensively before making any decision. Again, this either heaps guilt because there is some intrinsic implication that I have failed because I don’t pray like that. Or I consider those guys freaks and write them off and discredit their experiences. I can’t deliver those kinds of obligations
But how did it end up being an obligation?
The God of all creation, the wonderful and almighty God himself has offered us the chance to pray and somehow we have reduced it to an obligation.
Now, the hard part of writing this is to do so in a way not to heap a new kind of guilt on everybody. The Church has too much of that already. Think how much shorter the road to heaven would be without all the side guilt trips.
What I’m hoping I can do here is change how we think about prayer.
Rather than an obligation, prayer should be approached as a privilege. And this is why.
How many songs have been written about the amazing fact that God loves us and cares for us? How often have we been asked to ponder the fact that Jesus cared enough about us as sinners that he would die to redeem us and set us free from the curse of sin? A holy God called us holy because he restored us through the sacrifice of his son, and by the very proclamation of holiness made us holy.
This is truly the most boggling part of Christian faith. God loves us. Jesus loves us. The Holy Spirit loves. They want to be in relationship with us. They want to be part of our lives and express their love to us. And all the miraculous events of history have been expressions of that from the first second of creation to the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension. To even the fact that I am breathing at this very moment and so are you. Expressions of mercy and grace and love of the great and glorious God we worship and serve are boundless.
And he did all that, and continues to do all that for us. He did it for the generations before us and will continue to do it for the generations to come. He does all this for those we love and those we hate. God’s love is abundant. Illogical, perhaps, from a human perspective, but is all the more amazing for that.
And this astounding fact needs to pervade our theology. It needs to seep into practice of faith. It needs to mold our relationship with God and our following of Jesus. It needs to redefine how we relate to the people around us.
The more I grow to understand the depths of God’s love for us, the more I realize that this is truly the greatest miracle of all. I find it far too easy to disdain people I think are below me. Sometimes, I treat them as less than human.
I am truly, significantly less than God, yet he pursues me as a person of great value to him. He does the same for all of us, even those I disdain.
So, in light of this miracle of God desiring to connect with us, to be part of our lives, I want to look at the privilege of prayer. This is our chance to communicate with God. He wants to hear from us. He wants to talk with us, to know what we’re feeling and to speak to us. Everyone of us.
Recall some point in your life when you have been madly in love with someone. Remember that craving to speak with them? To hear their voice? That is God’s perspective on prayer. He’s eager to talk to us. He craves to hear us speak to him. He longs to share his heart with us. Just the very act of raising our voice to speak with him and sharing our heart with him gives him joy. When we pray, we cause God to smile.
God delights in us. And we forget it all the time. He constantly reminds us. As we spend time in prayer we can know this in a deeper way. Spend time with him and you can experience this joy and delight.
And how does that knowledge change us? Not just acknowledging that this is a theological fact, I mean knowing it. To quote the oracle form the film The Matrix, “It’s like being in love. You know it, from balls to bones.” Once this truth moves from a concept and into the reality of our lives, we will live very differently.
We most certainly will pray very differently.
So, I ask, why aren’t we diving into prayer as boldly and passionately as we can? I pray as you ponder that question that guilt will stay far from you and that you can see what really is in the way. The lover of your soul wants to whisper in your ear; run to meet him as if you were smitten with him, longing to spend time with him, aching to hear his voice.
Just like he is pining for you.

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