Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Desert

Yesterday I read and reflected on the verse below. Here is the excerpt from my journal. I feel it summarizes much of "where I have been" and my hope of "where God is taking me". May it bring you life.

Matthew 4:1
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.

Immediately after baptism, the event where God declares love for Christ- note this is before he does any preaching, teaching, healing or dying which means this love does not require a response but offers itself freely without condition, the Spirit of this type of love leads Christ out into the desert.

In the desert there is an absence of food,
absence of shelter,
absence of comfort,
there are no other people
it is the absence of life.

I have almost never been very far from food, shelter, comfort, or other people.

Surrounded by death is where the Spirit of love leads us to be tempted, alone. So you and I, individually are tested by the Tempter- the one who comes to kill, steal, and destroy-

The Tempter is all about death.

The Spirit of love leads us to the place of death, alone, to be tested. It is here our hearts are bared naked to reveal a faith or doubt in God

who is life,





Here temptation is not something to flee from, it is something we are led into by Love.

It qualifies our faith, purifies the soul, reveals the substance of our heart and draws us into alone-ness before God. It is the place we either realize our need for God or the place we try to play god. It is the place we either believe in love or the place we choose to hate. It is the place we are liberated to the will of Abba or become more captive to the powers of death. The desert is the beginning or not the beginning of following God.

To go searching for a desert is the beginning of the end of following God.

One cannot find a desert. As if selflessness is discovered by one's self. One can only seek the places that one might easily pass through unscathed, a place of moderate climate at best.

No, to reach a desert, one will need to be led by the Spirit of Love, lest one step into the territory of death without life accompanying. To do so would be arrogant, believing the same as the Evil One that he did not need God.

However, humility stops to listen for the gentle whisper of the Spirit of Love, a whisper that does not force itself on anyone, does not interrupt other conversations to be heard. A whisper so soft that it requires an ear trained in the art of listening to hear it, especially amidst a world that is like a room crowded with many people trying to talk over each other.

And if heard this Spirit of Love leads us away from comfort, safety, abundant supply of food, material possessions, other people we love or whatever else we think we "need". The Spirit leads us away from all that so we might encounter the One who meets all needs.

So we might encounter love.

It is in the testing of faith that one's faith becomes qualified. An untested faith is a weak faith, it knows not death and therefore knows not life.

The Evil One does not need to intrude on one's comfortable place as the Evil One knows that in this comfortable place there is no faith worth tempting. No instead the Evil One can use the one with little faith, can control them as one controls a machine, with the intimate knowledge of what makes it tic (the fear of death), to manufacture more death in the world.

The one with little faith is unfamiliar with death, has never seen a desert, and so happily produces death, even calling it "life", for the one with little faith knows very little of what death looks like. So unfamiliar with death though, the one who lacks faith also sadly, the greatest type of sadness beyond even what we feel for the dead, for this one has never known life. For the one who has never known life is the one who has never lived, so it seems only fitting that the one with little faith is cold, as a corpse is often cold and something to be very sad over.

This one feels not,

hears not,

sees not the world around it,

It is too afraid of death to ever become alive. And so remains dead.

But the one who fears not death, and has heard of the love of the Living God, can humbly stop whatever that one is doing to listen. This one trusts that Love always has good in store. This one is liberated to listen. This one can stop and listen because this one knows that doing things, even things deemed by oneself to be for God, will never take precedence over listening to the One who is God.

For even doing things one deems for God can come out of a fear of death. As if unfamiliar with the story of God, this one is trying hard to stop death because this one does not believe God is capable of overcoming death, so it is the duty, according to this one who lacks faith, to keep doing, and has little to no time for stopping and listening to God.

Oh how this one lacks faith, often clinging to those also doing so much that collectively they might never find time to stop doing things for God long enough to listen to God, for that gentle whisper of the Spirit calling them out, alone, into the desert to qualify their faith in God- perhaps the way a college qualifies individuals for a career. Anyone having exited college can say that college is but the beginning of the process of qualification. So also the Spirit of Love beckons us to come out alone into the place of death to qualify one's faith in God, that this one might stop fearing death and live liberated. So liberated that one day one might willingly even die, as Christ did, so that God could raise up more new life. Here death is not feared, it is hoped for.

No instead this one with little faith is assured of their work and has no room to doubt self, after all no one else seems to- a dangerous place to be indeed. So it only "makes sense" to keep working for God, and yet can anyone ever do work for God who is too afraid of death to stop one's work and hear God? And perhaps in hearing God, this one might find out that God does not fear death and therefore does a very different work then the one who fears death. In other words, perhaps the one who fears death has never worked for God. For the requirement to work for God is to believe in a love so good one might walk into death willingly for the good of love.

In so far as one believed in God's love, one might humbly stop

and listen,

and be led out alone

in to the territory of death,

where all but one need is not met, and where this one need is met, this one meets the Supplier Of All Needs. And in the place where death is abundant, this one might become alive by knowing the One who is Living.

It is in the testing of faith that one's faith becomes qualified. An untested faith is a weak faith. It knows not death and therefore knows not life.

"We are poor listeners because we are afraid that there is something other than love in God"- Compassion by Henry Nouwen, Donald McNeill, and Douglas A Morrison.

Friday, September 10, 2010

A Prayer of Hope

Here is prayer God worked into my being last month that I want to share. It has helped me to give up some of my lust for power, control, and selfishness. I hope it brings others life as well.

Oh Lord my Helper. Your ways are a mystery to us.

If it is our caring for the earth that the Creator is made known, then help us to care.
If it is our generosity that Your Abundance is made known, help us to give generously.

If it is in our being still that we can better see what your doing, then help us to be still.
If it is in our doing that we share wisdom, then help us to do wisely.

If it is in our love for the stranger that we learn love, then help us love those strange to us.
If it is in our love for enemy that we befriend you, then help us to love our enemies.

If is it in our weakness You are made strong, then help us to be weak.
If it is in our poverty you give us true riches, then help us to be poor.

If it is in our unseen work that You are more visible, then help us to work un-noticed.
If it is in our humble suffering that you are glorified, then help us to suffer humbly.

If it is in our dying that you resurrect life, then help us to practice dying.


Below is a video that brought me much comfort, joy, and courage in a time that I have been quite uncomfortable, despairing and fearful. My it also bring you life.

Mumford and Sons - Awake My Soul from Thomas Henley on Vimeo.