Wednesday, August 25, 2010

a prayer for your Church

Blessed Trinity, I have seen the beauty of Christ-like love bring healing and transformation to the hearts, souls, minds and bodies of hurting and broken people. I have seen your Church do things that overwhelmed me with joy, knowing that you were using disciples to accomplish wondrously redemptive things. But, my Lord, I must confess that I have also seen darkness. I have seen people use your name, and your Scriptures to hurt, kill, steal, destroy, abuse and scar others. I have seen people, who claim to be disciples, judging others, labeling others, and casting out people they don't think are worthy...as if they are qualified to judge others when they themselves are sinners saved by your grace. I must confess, Lord, that I have also done these things. I ask for your forgiveness for my contribution and for the distortions of your love done by the Church. I ask for a sense of deep conviction in your Church. I ask that you would speak by your Holy Spirit, to those places where we have fallen short in loving you and loving our neighbors. Create in us a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within us. Amen.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership

I began reading a book by Ruth Haley Barton titled: Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership. I did not know what to expect once I began reading it, I had only once heard someone quote a passage from the book and I was not familiar with the author.
It did not take long for me to see that there were many lines and paragraphs in this little book that seemed written just for me. In the first half of the book the word solitude jumped off the pages at me more than once. I have now found myself profoundly drawn to the practice of spending time alone with God.
Two quotes from the book (among many others) have stood out in my mind; and I have been mulling over these two quotations for the past several days.
"One of the primary functions of solitude is to settle into ourselves in God's presence. This is not easy and it takes time. But it is the answer to the heart cry that erupts when we have been distracted for too long by surface concerns. "I have lost myself!" we cry. Solitude is the only way to find ourselves again. And the longer we have been lost to ourselves, caught up with external stimulation, the longer it takes to find our way home again." (Page 41)
"Our transformation is never for ourselves alone. It is always for the sake of others." (Page 74)

These two quotes have resonated with me this past week because I have been preparing for the final sermon of a three part series on Jonah. The fourth and final chapter of the book of Jonah is a window into Jonah's heart and mind while in a time of solitude with God. I have always read this last chapter of Jonah's Journey as if it were merely a record of complaints, but I realize now that it is an example of a person in solitude with God - dealing with the deep dark stuff inside himself.
Solitude with God has a way of revealing to us what is going on down in the depths of our souls and what things we have not really dealt with yet...but need to.