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Easter is Coming: a Homily for Lent.

Easter is Coming: a Homily for Lent.

Luke 22:39–46

[39] And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. [40] And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” [41] And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, [42] saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” [43] And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. [44] And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. [45] And when he rose from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping for sorrow, [46] and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (ESV)

 

The disciples and Jesus have just finished dinner together in the upper room. When they were done eating, they stood and sang together, they sang a portion of the psalms that dealt with suffering, death, and deliverance.

After singing, Jesus led Peter James and John to the garden to pray. The moon lights the top of the olive trees, these wide canopies that spread out, causing thick darkness under and between them in the garden.

The disciples are spent. They’re emotionally worn out, confused, scared, and it’s late.

There is no coffee, they just ate a long meal and shared wine– and now they’re in the dark, kneeling, praying, leaning against trees in comfortable stillness.

And Jesus says, keep awake! Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation.

In Matthew and Mark’s Gospels, they talk of how Christ went off to pray, and came back twice to find Peter James and John asleep. “Peter!, he says, “You couldn’t stay awake one hour?!?“ “The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

There were good intentions to stay awake, but they gave into comfort, they gave into exhaustion, and they slept.

You and I have the privileged position of looking at this night in history and thinking, “Come on! Stay awake! Don’t you know what is about to happen and who he really is?!?”

But how often have you chosen comfort over looking to Jesus?

Chosen distraction over facing reality?

Slid into sleep to escape pain, overwhelm, or fear?

Meanwhile there is Jesus, wrestling his will to the ground with his own blood.

Lent helps us to stay awake.

It’s a practice to align our hearts by walking away from comfort

To align our will with the Father’s

As a friend says, ‘to follow the pattern of the self-emptying Jesus,’

Instead of the pattern of our self-protecting flesh.

46 days to keep watching and praying.

Asking God to give us a sense, a taste, a sight of the weight that Christ bore right here in the garden, surrendering his will to the Father’s, all the way until he declared it done, “It is finished.”

Lent is a rhythm of fasting and feasting.

We enter into discomfort, into self-denial, because Easter is coming.

And He’s calling us to stay awake, to watch, to pray.

That we might not enter into temptation

That we might be prepared for suffering as it comes

And that we might worship in knowing He endured suffering that we might be made whole.

Be Kind to Yourself.

Be Kind to Yourself.

In a conversation about counseling methods this year, a friend made the statement that people will begin to share things and their voice will shake, or they will fight down tears. They will apologize and try to hurry on, and he will encourage them to recognize these signs from their body that are trying to get past their words and be noticed. We are embodied creatures, and often we fight to be all head and expect our bodies to just keep up. They betray us, and can feel things better than our thoughts can at times.

Which is partially why I was grateful and a little surprised while standing at the kitchen island this morning, serving pancakes to my daughter, and in a moment I went from singing to tears as the song behind me turned over a new verse:

Well how does it end when the war that you’re in
Is just you against you against you
Gotta learn to love, learn to love
Learn to love your enemies too

You can’t expect to be perfect
It’s a fight you’ve gotta forfeit
You belong to me whatever you do
So lay down your weapon, darling
Take a deep breath and believe that I love you

Be kind to yourself.

I’ve head Andrew say that he wrote this song for his daughter, and then realized how much he needed it himself. This morning, looking at my own daughter, thinking of all I hope for her in these words and the years ahead, I hit the same stop in my own road: that I needed to take a deep breath myself, and believe. My tears betrayed my disbelief, and my weariness of it.

God is so good to meet us in moments like this. How generous He is to his children.

Maybe you need to hear these words too. Take a moment and listen to Andrew singing with his daughter (and his son on drums):

Despising our Shame: Beau Hughes & Dallas Willard on the work of the Spirit in our daily habits.

Despising our Shame: Beau Hughes & Dallas Willard on the work of the Spirit in our daily habits.

Beau Hughes, who is one of my favorite pastoral thinkers and preachers, took The VIllage Church Denton through a six week series entitled He Covers Our Shame. I’m working my way through it at the suggestion of a coworker, and I’m thankful he pointed me to Beau’s words. Hughes has a gift to research, distill, and present truth to the heart in a way to exalts Christ and dismembers our defenses – and he’s doing it faithfully among the people of Denton. Here’s a quote from week 4, entitled, Despising Our Shame beginning right around the 10 minute mark:

J.I. Packer wrote that, “habit-forming is the Spirit’s ordinary way in leading us as Christians on in holiness.” In other words the way we begin to live out our identity as children that have been freed from shame and had our shame covered is primarily through habit forming as the Spirit empowers us and leads us along. And it’s interesting now, you know, because the research about shame is showing, especially from a Christian perspective as we think about this, that those who live in increasingly and pronounced healing and freedom from shame are those who, despite the ongoing presence of sin and shame in their lives, have developed habits and practices in their daily life that cultivate their trust and their confidence that through Jesus, they are loved, accepted, and delighted in by God. So, in other words, those that are walking in pronounced freedom, and are learning to walk in their identity, to put on the covering of Christ day by day are those who have developed habits and practices that have helped them to hold fast to the assurance of hope that they have been washed and have been made clean by Jesus.

This process. The way the Spirit forms us into the image of Christ – the way he combats the seeds of doubt sown by the serpent in the Garden – to help us believe with childlike joy that God is good, and He does love us. This is worthy of our attention and thought at every corner of our lives – because we need desperately to be formed into something else than the image of our distractions and diversions. We are meant for Christ.

As the new year rolls around, and you may be thinking and planning of how to be a better you in 2018 – may I encourage you to be a weaker you? A more vulnerable and compassionate, gentle-tongued and creaturely you? A child of God, trusting their father and walking in the covering of Christ in the moment to moment life among others who are just as scared, needy, and prone to be defensive as you.

With an eye toward the impossible that only Christ can make possible, we plan our days and sow toward a field where we pray the Spirit bears fruit. Sowing takes effort, and it takes work. As Dallas Willard often said, Grace is opposed to earning, but not to effort.  Here is one of my favorite articles from Dallas on the process of intentional habits and the work of the Spirit in our lives: Living a Transformed Life Adequate to Our Calling.

With you, friend. He is trustworthy, patient, kind and loving. And He is calling us forward to greater life.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year…

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year…

A few weeks out from the new year, and one where the unknown can be feared rather than anticipated – this was a welcomed encouragement. Enjoy.

 

THE GATE OF THE YEAR (or ‘God Knows’)
by Minnie Louise Haskins

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.

So heart be still:
What need our little life
Our human life to know,
If God hath comprehension?
In all the dizzy strife
Of things both high and low,
God hideth His intention.

God knows. His will
Is best. The stretch of years
Which wind ahead, so dim
To our imperfect vision,
Are clear to God. Our fears
Are premature; In Him,
All time hath full provision.

Then rest: until
God moves to lift the veil
From our impatient eyes,
When, as the sweeter features
Of Life’s stern face we hail,
Fair beyond all surmise
God’s thought around His creatures
Our mind shall fill.

reading: a year in one vein

reading: a year in one vein

This year I’ve given myself to reading in one predominant vein outside of the Scriptures: emotional health and spiritual formation in the personal life of a leader and the culture they influence.

I’ve read widely, in and out of my tribe or stream. Taking the meat, leaving the bones, and trying to stretch my comfort level – it’s been helpful.

I thought I’d list the resources here in case they might serve someone else. I’ll try to keep adding podcasts, videos, etc. as I think of them. Just thought I’d get this list moving. – MK

 

  • Alan Fadling, The Unhurried Leader
  • Peter Scazzero, The Healthy Christian Leader
  • John Ortberg, Soul Keeping
  • David Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself
  • Storbel / Goggin, The Way of the Dragon or the Way of the Lamb
  • David I. Starling, UnCorinthian Leadership
  • Jan Johnson, Meeting God in Scripture: A Hands-On Guide to Lectio Divina
  • Chuck DeGroat, Wholeheartedness: Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self
  • Erik Raymond, Chasing Contentment: Trusting God in a Discontented Age
  • Gene Edwards, A Tale of three Kings: A Study in Brokenness
  • C. John Miller, The Heart of a Servant Leader: Letters from Jack Miller
  • Robert Fryling, The Leadership Ellipse: Shaping How We Lead by Who We Are
  • Ruth Haley Barton, Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups
  • Curt Thompson, The Soul of Shame: Retelling the Stories We Believe About Ourselves
  • Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us
  • Harter, Michael, Hearts on Fire: Praying with Jesuits
  • Johnson, Jan, When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer
  • Muller, Wayne, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives
  • Fryling, Alice, Mirror for the Soul: A Christian Guide to the Enneagram
  • Ford, Leighton, The Attentive Life: Discerning God’s Presence in All Things

Audible:

  • Brene Brown, The Power of Vulnerability
  • Henry Blackaby, Experiencing the Spirit

Podcasts:

  • The Emotionally Healthy Leader Podcast
  • Renovare
  • The Invitation
  • Unhurried Living

 

 

 

 

Cynicism profiles Goodness.

Cynicism profiles Goodness.

“For some of us, Cynicism is sapping us.
Cynicism is a prejudice against Good.
Cynicism profiles Goodness.
If Goodness or Joy walks into the store, Cynicism follows it—cause it doesn’t trust it.
Cynicism stereotypes Joy.

Cynicism is an all or nothing thing.
Either everything is beautiful or nothing is.
Cynicism: either everything goes well or nothing does.

Cynicism means that you trust darkness, but you don’t trust light.
You trust brokenness, but you don’t trust healing.
You trust that there are zombies. That it’s a metaphor for something in life, and life is a mess, and dark and broken and mangled.
You trust that.

But if true Wholesomeness were to stand right in front of you, the real thing—the real thing that you long for—stood right in front of you, you’d dismiss it. Because Cynicism gets to the point where you can never embrace Joy.
You can never embrace Goodness. You can never embrace a good thing, because it just might be an illusion. It just might deceive you. It might be tricksy. It might trick you, so you can’t trust anything.

Now here’s the thing, Cynicism can help you for a while. But it just can’t get you through anything. Because any remedy that would ever come you way, you’re going to doubt it. Because the one thing in life that you trust is your Doubt.

Cynicism doesn’t know how to stand, feisty with hope, staring at a tomb.”

Zack Eswine
The Greatness of an Ordinary Hope
Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church Podcast (7/11/2017)
Quote found at 25:15-28:36.

 

Your Legacy: Ordinary Love.

Your Legacy: Ordinary Love.

“In order to have an extraordinary greatness, you must have ordinary love.

Now where is it that this personal ambition to do something great, this personal desire to leave a legacy – I’ve been listening to several men a bit older than myself the last couple of years who are retiring. They’re wondering what their legacy will be. And it’s instructive for me as a younger man, who will one day be there, it’s instructive for me to realize how many of us men do not have love in the calculation of a legacy. We’re thinking of legacy in terms only of work.

Even though we’re surrounded, maybe, by grandchildren.
Even though we’re surrounded, maybe, by friendship.
Even though we’re surrounded, maybe, by the love of our life.
Somehow, we’re surrounded with that kind of opportunity to love and we think we have no legacy.

It’s because we are continually tempted to look for extraordinary greatness outside of ordinary love.”

 

Zack Eswine
The Greatness of Ordinary Love, 1 Cor 13:1-8
Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church Podcast (7/9/2017)
Quote found at 15:03-16:20.