Gone in Sixty Seconds and the Priest Who Died So Others Might Live!

Sixty seconds.

That’s all you the time you have left to live.

How are you going to use it?

That’s the “spiritual rhythm/discipline” I’ve been trying on for size the past six years or so. It’s challenging because it forces me to spend that moment – which is all I am ever promised anyhow – well. It’s not enough time to do anything (fix what’s broken, repair what I’ve mangled, etc.) other than use that time well.

In this season of social distancing (a phrase that my good friend Derek West calls an oxymoron – “if you’re distant, you can’t be social”), this discipline/rhythm is taking on new meaning for me.

The discipline itself is rooted in the Scriptures. While I’ve not done a thorough examination, I’d guess there are a couple of dozen direct biblical references to time and our use of it. There are dozens, maybe hundreds, more indirect references and lessons related to the use of time in the Bible.

My favorite is found in Ephesians 5;15-16,

“Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. “

Earlier, in Ephesians 5:1, Paul encourages us to “live in love.” He then defines what he means by instructing us to imitate and model Christ in the world.

When we see words like “imitate” and “model” we think they mean that we observe and repeat what we see. But it’s not as simple as observing and repeating. To imitate means more than mere observation.

If I am going to imitate someone, I will need to get to know them. I will need to become so familiar with them that it’s as if I become them. Imitation demands intimacy!

That’s why Paul, before he tells us to imitate Jesus, encourage us, in Ephesians 4, to clothe ourselves in Him. We are, in a literal sense, to “put on Jesus.” In Ephesians 4:24 we read,

“Clothe yourselves with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”

This “putting on Jesus” is something we do again and again. It requires discipline – an action we take that’s driven by an intention we have.

When reflecting on Spiritual Discipline, Henri Nouwen once wrote,

“In the spiritual life, the word discipline means ‘the effort to create some space in which God can act.’ Discipline means finding that place where you’re not occupied, certainly not preoccupied. In the spiritual life, discipline means to create space in which something can happen that you hadn’t planned or counted on.”

The act (or action) of clothing myself in Him is a recurring discipline that creates space in which God acts. The discipline creates space in my life for God to do the unexpected in and through me!

In other words, if my intention is to imitate Jesus, then the action that must happen prior to that is the discipline of “clothing myself” in Him.

As we clothe ourselves in Him, we are then empowered by Him – His life within us – to live in love as we live in the world.

This is what Ephesians 5:15 explicitly calls living wisely – or living in wisdom (Ephesians 5:15-16. Specifically, that means that as God’s beloved children (Ephesians 5:1-2), clothed in Christ and living in union with Him (Ephesians 4), we are empowered to live well in a world that’s all but forgotten (and even forsaken) how (Ephesians 5:3-4) to live well.

This week, I was humbled by a news article that exemplifies how one can live wisely in our world. The story caught my eye because it’s subject is an Italian Priest who died from the Cornovirus in March. He died because he made a decision to surrender his ventilator so that someone younger might have access to it and live.

Such a decision is possible, even probable, for one who spends a lifetime clothing themselves in Christ. That’s a decision to live as God’s beloved, wrapped up in His life, in the world. A world where both currently and rampantly our first inclination is to hoard, consume, and preserve ourselves rather than sacrifice and share for the sake of others!

Could I make that kind of decision?

Honestly, I am not sure.

I know I could give up a ventilator for those I love, but for those I don’t know and those who may even be an “enemy,” I am not so sure.

I’ve recently witnessed other behaviors from Christian leaders that I consider to be foolish. Behaviors like bantering on about our First Amendment Rights in relation to the mitigations set in place during this Coronavirus pandemic.

No. That’s not the way I want to live those last sixty seconds of my life.

Nor is it the way I think the Scriptures encourage us to live them.

Sixty seconds.

That’s all the time you have left to live.

Do you surrender your ventilator so that others might live?

Do you whine about your rights and pound your self-righteous chest so that all might hear just how upset you are?

Do you extend mercy and grace or anger and hate?

Do you share the light of Christ or keep His light to yourself?

Do you rest in peace as you head into peaceful rest?

Are you able to reflect on a lifetime of sixty seconds in which you’ve “put on Christ” and absorbed HIm into your life?

Sixty seconds.

How are you going to use it?

I am asking myself these questions more than ever before.

I am not always satisfied with my answers, but I am thankful that I continue to ask the question.

Grace and peace,

Biz

Ministry, MLK, and Making Time to Write

Wow!

It’s been nearly a month since I’ve blogged.

I’ve been locked in a busy season of life and ministry.  For many involved in full-time (or even part-time and volunteer) ministry, the Advent Season is full and vibrant.  Busy but rewarding.

I find that, when ministry demands are high, moments for writing are few and far between.

That’s when I have to create space to write.

Time to Write Doesn’t Just Happen

This morning, I looked at my calendar and was stunned to find that it’s already January 10th.  We are ten days into the New Year, and I’ve not written (at least not for this blog) one single word of reflection or encouragement.

So, I am stopping everything else to take time to write.

If you love writing, as I do, then I’d encourage you not to wait until you have time to write before you write.  No, make time to write.  Even in a post-literate society (one that don’t read :^)), we need our authors.  We need to hear from those who help us put words to what we feel, sense, and perceive but are unable to articulate.

So today, on this day that’s already quite full, I am going to pause and reflect on the hope Martin Luther King once had of our world.  It seems an appropriate topic since we will celebrate his life in just over a week.

His hope, though not his only hope (after all, we cannot narrow any one man or woman’s entire life down to one idea, no matter how grand) was that Love would win the day.

He did, in fact, repeatedly propose that love is the only hope any of us have.

Continue reading “Ministry, MLK, and Making Time to Write”

Love as the Experience of Knowing and Being Known

Love, the experience of knowing and being known, is a game-changer!

Love certainly changed the game for me!

I can easily list a host of “loves” that have produced change and transformation in my life:

  1. The love of my parents governed some of the most critical changes in my life from the outset!
  2. The love of my wife has picked up where my parents left off. Her deep love has proven to be transformative on a multitude of levels as I have grown – while married to her – into a man!
  3. The love of my children has drilled a deep well of patience and perseverance.
  4. The love of my vocation has unleashed a previously untapped reservoir of gifts, talents, and strengths.

Most importantly is – the love around which all the others revolve – the love of our Father!

All true and meaningful loves are birthed from and grounded in this first love, this Ultimate love!

Regaining the experience of our first love – knowing and being known by Him – is vital!

Curt Thompson, author of Anatomy of the Soul, believes that knowing and being known is a universally shared desire. He suggests a reason why when he states:

“It is only when we are known that we are positioned to become conduits of love.  And it is love that transforms our minds, makes forgiveness possible, and weaves a community of disparate people into the tapestry of God’s family.”

Thompson is onto something.

Continue reading “Love as the Experience of Knowing and Being Known”

According to Dabo Swinney, Love Wins!

According to Dabo Swinney, Love Wins!

That’s right!  Head coach of the newly crowned national champion Clemson Tigers, told the nation, after having previously telling his team – repeatedly – that it’s love that wins!

For Dabo, love was the key to the final – and classic – moments of the championship game.

A game the Tigers won as time ran out.

In his own words,

Continue reading “According to Dabo Swinney, Love Wins!”

Moments of Awakening: Moment #1, Grime Ridden Grace Filled

That which holds your heart holds your life.  Poets express this sentiment when they  write of love, hope and beauty.  The Outlet, from Dickinson beautifully portrays love captured longing to be captured (read here, http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/outlet-162).

The media is captivated by this reality as well. Once Upon a Time, a television program I enjoy explores this through an evil queen. The queen takes control of others by reaching inside their chest and extracting their heart. When the queen has your heart, she has you in her control. In this case it leads to destruction and often it leads to death.

Over three decades ago, pornography captured my heart. The addiction gripped, pursued, captured  and controlled me for years.  It was a constant and unwanted companion that remained as I entered marriage.  A year or so into my young marriage Melissa discovered my addiction. It was the low point of my life. I was ‘caught’ and without excuse!!

DISRUPTUS!

It was also an awakening; the beginning of a new path!

RENOVATUS!

By the age of 28, I was trapped by consistent porn consumption for over 15 years.  I was married and  in ministry, with our first born in the womb. Everything was wonderful. Everything was beautiful. Expect for the reality that porn had captured my heart.  Now, over 17 years after that grime ridden grace filled moment, I have a beautiful marriage to a beautiful bride with a beautiful family.

Out of the ashes beauty has formed. This beautiful formation, however, has required a journey of reorientation.  I have come call this my Desire Reclamation Journey.  It has offered many lessons designed for my ultimate good.  Some, I hope, can be encouraging to you.  Chief among them are:

  1. Facing the truth about myself.  This was the initial step that has loved me into wholeness.
  2. Porn consumption exploits and distorts my desires, taking me away from my best self, rendering me unable to offer my best self to others.
  3. I am defined by who I am and how I love (Reflect upon this: I believe it may be universally true).

 

Receiving truth is the first, and perhaps, most important step.  However, reception alone is not enough.  A renewed life requires the development of new disciplines: new habits.  There are several Spiritual Disciplines or Spiritual Rhythms¹ – both ancient and modern – that have aided my growth toward God and His good.  These disciplines have created more fully human habits in and through me.

The modern rhythms that capture my heart:

  1. Intimacy with my spouse, close family, friends, and the local community  in which I live.
  2. Responsibility with my time and resources (e.g. computers, phone, etc.), and my strengths, talents and desires.
  3. A third discipline, which entwines the previous two, is Presence: the practice of my fullest self being fully present to God, self and others.

Some ancient rhythms that capture my heart:

  1. Silence and Solitude.
  2. The Examen.
  3. Lectio Divina (0r, Contemplative or Sacred Reading).  Lectio and Examen deepen my receptivity toward God’s Word and heighten my awareness of His presence.
  4. Fasting and Service.  These final two ground me in the life for others calling that Christ enjoys and desires.

Each discipline has shaped (often at an unbearably slow pace) me into one who craves a deeper sense of God’s presence.  They have captured my heart.  They have captured my life.

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¹Barton, R. Ruth. Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2006. Print.