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

If You Knew You Only Had Sixty Seconds to Live, How Would you Live them?

A few years ago, I started asking myself what I would do If I were about to enter the final minute of my life.

The first time I did so I was sitting in a Starbucks in Vero Beach, Fl. The one that is located on U.S. 1, in the Publix plaza parking lot. Starbucks was a second home when we moved to Vero and planted Pillar Community Church. It, and other local coffee houses, served as my office for the first four to five years of the ministry.

On this particular morning, Starbucks was filled with people. As I observed folks coming in and out, I found myself passing subtle judgments. You know, judgments like,

“That’s not a coffee drink . . . it’s a soft-serve ice cream sundae laced with peppermint-cocoa flavoring,” Or

“Wow, you wore that in public?” Or

“Good grief, do you really need that much space? Can’t you see that people are standing around waiting for a place to sit?”

I was clearly feeling a sense of “I am better-than-you are” as I sat hunched in a small corner, at a small table, sipping on my dark-roast black coffee for the morning.

I the midst of these thoughts, I suddenly wondered, “What would I do If Jesus showed up and said, ‘Okay son, it’s time to go. Pack it up and come with me.’?”

I found myself stumbling to explain my thoughts to Him and wondering what I would say if that did happen!?!?

So, I decided to re-enact those sixty seconds and live as if these would be the last sixty seconds of my life.

A funny thing happened. The thoughts I was having ceased. New thoughts emerged. They were powerful thoughts. I didn’t wonder why people ordered what they were ordering, sat where they were sitting, or wore what they were wearing. Rather, I began to ask myself, “What should I do with the time I have remaining?” or “How should I spend these final moments of my life?”

On that morning I began a new spiritual practice or rhythm that I call “living as if I am in the last sixty seconds of my life.” As one who believes our practices and habits shape our behaviors, this one has been fascinating.

The time constraint of sixty seconds, while challenging, prevents the hysteria of trying to fix all I’ve broken even as it invites me to consider where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, said, and done and challenges me to spend my final seconds well! The time limitation is challenging on so many levels.

So, when I practice “living as if I am in the last sixty seconds of my life,” I find myself going through a quick but meaningful internal catalog of my dearest loves in this life.

After thinking about them, I give thanks for them.

I am humbled every time.

There have been times when I’ve caught myself feeling a need to fix what I’ve broken, unsay what I’ve said, or un-see what I’ve seen. But I don’t have time to do any of that so I offer a simple confession to my Father and invite His son to do for me what I cannot do for myself (again).

Then, with whatever time remains, I usually try to offer a smile or word of encouragement to someone nearby and, in my own way, share some of the light that Christ has so generously shared with me.

Suddenly, my time is up.

My final sixty seconds are over.

And that’s when the real fun begins. The practice itself reminds me of what a precious gift time is and how grateful I should be for this life I live. It serves to remind me of the generous grace of our Father, the Holy love of His Son, and the empowering influence of His Spirit.

In short, the practice generates joy, gratitude, and a renewed sense of sharing the good news Gospel of the With-God-Life that Jesus preached and makes possible. It’s the news that experiencing and enjoying life with God is possible now.!

And, of course, there have been times when the practice has surfaced some things left unsaid and undone that God, in His grace, gives me the chance to address and bring into the light of His Gospel.

Most of all, the practice shines a light on how often I fail to live as if it’s the last sixty seconds of my life. It’s stunning, really. Particularly given the Bible’s thorough and consistent persistence that we take note of the time we are given and take stock of how we are living!

From beginning to end, the Bible is full of encouragement to wake up to the presence of God and the light of Christ and then live as if that matters to everyone on the planet. A favorite of mine is found in Ephesians, where the writer (I believe it’s Paul, for what it’s worth) encourages us to buy back the time we are given and use it well.

In Ephesians 5:15-16 we read, ” Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil.”

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Ephesians+5&version=NRSV

In some small way, this practice of “living as if I am in the final sixty seconds of my life,” rekindles my desire to make the most of every moment. When I am “making the most of every moment,” I discover that my walk with Christ is more robust. and my life with others is more enriching.

You may want to try this one sometime. If you do, let me know what you discover.

Hoping this blog will serve to help you awaken and be attentive to the eternal life now present and possible in Christ!

Grace and peace,

Biz

Redeveloping the “Y” Axis!

If you remember, I finished my last post (here) with the assertion that the church is in position to restore what I call a y-axis reality.  Borrowing the term x-y axis,” we first learned in geometry.

The x-axis is, of course, the horizontal (time-bound/natural) plane.  For our purposes, the x-axis represents a life lived and experienced on a horizontal playing field. On this horizontal playing field, all that you see is all that there is.

No reason to look up or out.

There is nothing, or no one, there.

Sociologists call this an immanent frame.

An immanent frame is, in the words of Charles Taylor, a way we perceive the world that “frames our lives entirely within a natural (rather than supernatural) frame.”

Life within this immanent frame unconsciously denies the reality of the supernatural.

The natural, time-bound, experience of life is all that’s left in life.

Most authorities on the subject agree: ours is an immanent frame!

We now live in an x-axis-only frame.

Our world is pretty much an x-axis world.  By that, I mean that we only look out and rarely, if ever, look up.

And, while I believe in a y-axis reality, I am guilty of getting stuck in an x-axis-only mentality.  Yes, I am often guilty of living like the world.  At least in this way.

Living as if the only solutions available to me are ones I can see that are right in front of me, I look out but do not look up.

In other words, I live on the x-axis.

I want to live on the y-axis.

The y-axis is the vertical plane.  It’s the “let’s look up again and dream a world shaped by the sacred, saturated with wonder, and soaked in awe” axis.

It’s the axis that points me to something, Someone, beyond what my eyes see.

In a world whose resources are limited, it just makes sense to be a y-axis person.

Y-Axis Problems in an X-Axis World

But I find it challenging to live on the Y-axis.  It’s just too easy to get caught up in myself and my problems.  When I do that, I tend to look to myself (and those around me) for solutions.

At times those solutions work out pretty well.  Most often, however, the solutions are short-term solutions, and I find myself back – again – where I once was.  This time around, a little more aggravated and far less patient.

The stress of returning to the problems takes its toll.  Then, in dealing with anxiety, I begin to select options located within an x-axis-only frame.   I ask questions like,

“Who caused this problem, and why is it not resolved yet?” Or,

“Whom can I blame for this?”

These x-axis-only questions deliver x-axis-only solutions.  Again, I look to people, circumstances, and situations for the answers.

I am learning a harsh lesson: my default position, especially when dealing with tough situations or encountering intractable problems, is x-axis-only.

So, I wonder, “if I struggle with being a y-axis person, are there others who do as well?”

If so, then maybe there is a spiritual discipline or rhythm available to us that well help reorient ourselves to a y-axis reality.

Re-developing the Y-Axis Reality

Perhaps, over time and through practice, a y-axis response can be our default orientation!

Being a y-axis person is vital because the y-axis incorporates, and values the x-axis.  The x-axis, conversely, is dismissive of the y-axis and ignorant of its existence!

In other words, when I live on the y-axis (the reality in which I am aware of and attentive to God’s presence), then I become vitally alive in the x-axis (reality in which my life-with-God plays out).

I may have discovered a rhythm for this very purpose.

This spiritual rhythm is nestled within Psalm 105:3-4.  I am just now beginning to practice it, but I will at least give you the gist of it so that you can, if you desire, practice it as well!

Spiritual Rhythms, the With-God-Life, and Y-Axis Reality

First, a word about why I believe spiritual rhythms and disciplines are keys to the With-God-Life and essential to redeveloping a y-axis reality.

  • Spiritual rhythms empower us to live fully into the present reality of God.  They are not an ‘end’ in and of themselves.   They are a means to an end – the highest End of them all – God’s presence within and among us
  • Spiritual rhythms don’t earn any favor with God or serve as some arbitrary measure of our spiritual success. They are simple practices of grace, to be experienced over and over again (habit), that awaken us to the presence of Christ in our midst.  As we are awakened, we are then invited to abide with Him.

As we abide with Him, we then begin to build a Jesus-way of life.

In other words, Spiritual rhythms help cultivate a life around the reality that Jesus is in our midst and that He is inviting us into an interactive and ongoing relationship with Him.

They are tools that help us live into the With-God-Life and experience a Y-axis reality.

Psalm 105:3-4 encourages the spiritual rhythm meditating and reflecting on His word and works:

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually. Remember the wonderful works he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered.”

Three Reflections and Meditations Designed to Re-develop the Y-axis Reality

The Psalmist is inviting us to contemplate and meditate on the presence of God in our midst.

His words encourage three specific meditations that encompass all of life and lift us into a Y-axis reality in an X-axis world.

  1. Rejoice in his rule as you meditate on the power of His name.  In this we find contentment.  Hold whatever ails you up to the power of his name and rejoice in his sovereign care.  Yes, He’s got this!
  2. Race after and Rest in His abiding presence.  Assume that God is with you. Look for Him.  Talk to Him. Listen to Him.  When we begin to live as if God is nearer to us than we are to ourselves (Acts 17:27), we learn to rest and trust His love in the anxious moments where fear would like to control us.
  3. Remember the wonderful works he has done.  To remember, in a bible-way, is to focus intently on, reflect, meditate, chew, and digest the thought.  Spend some time recalling the works of God (the rest of Psalm 105 is a great place to start).  Write them down.  Carry these wonderful works with you.  When you feel alone, fearful, abandoned, deserted, take a look at the list.  Carefully hold your situation up to the list.  You may find this will bring some much-needed perspective and hope!

As I said, I am just beginning to practice this meditation.

I know this: without spiritual practices and rhythms, I find myself easily driven by X-axis default patterns.  As I employ spiritual practices and rhythms, I find myself more intently focused on the reality that God is near to me and desires to reveal His will and His way in this very present problem!

Disrupting to Renew!

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Reclaiming What’s Lost

Christ’s earliest followers sensed a fresh wind blowing.  They sensed that, as the resurrection-story poured forth, they were experiencing and living in the new-kind-of-Kingdom vision that Jesus often proclaimed.

No, they didn’t fully realize what was going on at the moment.

But that didn’t matter.

The earliest followers of Christ stumbled, bumbled, and tumbled their way into this new-kind-of-Kingdom promise of the Gospel.  As they did, they experienced power, proclaimed hope, and dispensed love – gratuitously, I might add.

They began, in short, a journey as a new-kind-of-people within a new-kind-of-community.

It must have been exhilarating.

Can you imagine walking into one of the earliest temples, synagogues, or homes where this new message was the new way?

Continue reading “Reclaiming What’s Lost”

Feeling, Rather than Fleeing, Pain!

The Princess Bride, a modern fairy tale employing all of the standard elements like Royalty, clearly defined heroes and villains, stark contrasts between good and evil, hints of magic and happy endings, is one of my favorite flicks.

While there are so many parts of this movie that make one laugh, there are also just as many parts that offer insight.

In one poignant moment, just after Princess Buttercup is mocked by the “Dread Pirate Roberts” and before she rediscovers her long, lost Wesley, the Pirate King reminds her that “Life is pain.”

And he is right, at least partially.

Life is certainly filled with moments or seasons of pain.

No one likes to feel pain.  In fact, we all would choose to flee pain over feeling pain any day of the week.  This ‘flee pain over feel pain’ urge is the seed-bed in which many addictions grow!

Yes, there is something to be said for an honest experience of feeling your pain.

Feeling your pain may, in fact, be the key that unlocks the door which opens to a new you!

Conversely, fleeing your pain – or striving to fix it too quickly, may be the reason the door remains locked.

I recently discovered some valuable lessons through the experience of feeling, rather than fleeing, my pain.

Continue reading “Feeling, Rather than Fleeing, Pain!”