Last Night

I need my alone time to recharge and process. My parents and brother visited this weekend, so the apartment was full of people, life, sound, and love. It was awesome, but I needed to carve out some “me” time.

My wife took my son to my in-laws’ home for dinner, so I took the opportunity to visit the prayer labyrinth at SMU. As I walked the winding path, I had a lot of distracting, cloudy thoughts. Once I reached the center, I finally asked God to focus my mind and speak to me.

Now, I have prayed this for years. It’s almost a formality. This time, however, I looked straight up to the sky. There, directly overhead, was Vega, the brightest star of the Lyra constellation.

In my mind’s eye, I saw Vega as though from “orbit.” A blindingly bright, burning body of light and energy and pull. There was the expanse of space and the knowledge that all of this is eternal. The same materials that make up this star, this universe, are within me. When I die, those materials will be released and go to form someone or something else. There is an energy, a movement that enables and comprises all of life and to me, this is what we call “God.” It is the Source of all being, ever-contracting, ever-expanding, ever-transforming, and ever-present.

I was overwhelmed with humility, gratitude, and the driving need to dive back into my life. As spiritual and “out there” as this experience was, it grounded me and gave me a renewed appreciation for the time I have. I want to spend the rest of that time loving everyone and everything in my life with all that I’ve got, because just as it is a miracle that I get to exist and be a part of all this, so it is a tremendous blessing to have the people in my life that I do.

I get that not everyone will agree with my perspective on God. Some will say this “force” isn’t conscious, others say this description is blasphemy. Think what you like! For me, this force of Life is always tending toward itself, producing and creating and calling for us to participate in its activity. For me, this participation is what we see in Jesus, embodying the power of life, death, and renewal in a way that is inspiring and delightful.

Am I nuts? Maybe, although people who are psychotic don’t usually think they could be psychotic. I do have a rich, imaginative inner life, but all I can do is use my experiences to shape my understanding, so that’s what I am doing.

Life is a gift, and it is a gift to have you as a part of it. I hope you can learn to see things this way. Further, I hope you will take advantage of every opportunity to share your gifts, love your people, and live your life.

Peace be with you!

Dismiss Others, Dismiss God

He came to his hometown and began to teach the people[h] in their synagogue, so that they were astounded and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? — Matthew 13:54-55, NRSV

We limit our perspectives a lot, especially when we are being confronted with information we have already decided not to believe or entertain. Look at how we treat various news sources. If we lean “left” on the political spectrum, we sneer at Fox News or The Federalist. If we tend “right,” we dismiss out of hand reporting done by CNN, NBC, or NPR.

When I was working in ministry professionally, and even still today, my seminary education from Perkins School of Theology would be counted against me under the assumption that I was nothing more than an indoctrinated theological liberal. My lack of military experience counts against me when I argue on behalf of my Muslim friends, or if I dare to question the reasons our brave service members are sent to risk their lives. Knowledge of my past sins sometimes causes others to take any wisdom I may offer with a grain of salt.

For Jesus, in the story I quote above, the fact that he was in his hometown, surrounded by people with whom he had grown up and share life, counted against His being understood as the Messiah. We are told that “he did not do many deeds of power there, because of their unbelief” (Matthew 13:58). Because the people of Nazareth knew His family and His humble beginnings, they missed out on the powerful Good News Jesus had been bringing to other places.

In the same way, when we dismiss others before we even get a chance to hear what they are saying, we miss out on countless moments in which the Holy Spirit might be trying to speak to us. Even if we have heard the same words countless times, this next encounter could reveal something completely different for us to consider and be affected by if we would only leave our ears and hearts open. As Balaam learned in Numbers 22, whatever source we view as unlikely or beneath us may actually be the way in which God chooses to get our attention.

So what does this mean for us?

We must stop dismissing each other just because we assume we know the truth. When we fail to listen and be open to one another, we harm our relationships and potentially limit the means by which God might speak to us. God can do what God wants, but He wants our active participation in Eternal Life, which means loving Him by loving our neighbor. If we ignore, dismiss, or deride our neighbor, it’s safe to say that we are not open to the work of God either.

My prayer for you, myself, and this world of ours is that we may all go forward from this moment with open ears, open eyes, and open hearts. This does not mean that we don’t get to have our own opinions, but it does mean that we don’t let our opinions get in the way of loving and respecting each other, no matter how much we don’t know or how much we think we know. This is a difficult, lifelong, but totally worthy endeavor that can transform and enhance our encounters with our neighbors and the living God. So let’s get started!

Peace be with you!