Friday, February 27, 2009

ode

"Necessary but not sufficient," is a phrase used by Michelle Chan in Ode magazine last month to describe her own work to increase sustainability practices among major world banks. Check out the article if you'd like.

Reading this today got me thinking about how much of what I do in life is necessary but not sufficient. If my life's ambition is to honor and please God, how many of my actions are vital but inadequate?

Then I thought, in a way, all of my efforts (prayer, ministry, worship, relationship, discipleship, etc) fall into that category. Nothing within me is perfect, and I cannot produce anything perfect. All my time and energy spent pleasing God is necessary but never is it sufficient.

Knowing this does not depress me though, because I know that God is gracious. He offers an endless supply of grace for my journey, and mercy when I fall short. It is only with God, that I am able to persevere. Many times I give into temptation, but knowing that what I had to offer was never enough, my efforts were always flawed, my actions could never earn God's love, I am able to press further into into him. I need to accept his grace to live a full life.

So Psalm 103 is my Ode today. The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love! How great is our God!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

i am dust...

It's my goal to read a little bit each day out of "The Practice of the Presence of God" as a part of my Lenten fast. Don't know what I'm giving up yet though... Lent is something that I look forward to, in a strange, creepy, dark sorta way. It's also followed by Easter which is my favorite time of year, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

It is said that every part of your day can become an act of worship. Cleaning, sleeping, driving, writing in a blog can all be God-honoring activities. For some reason I believe this (although I'm not sure how it's done), and I believe that God can speak to us, and we to him, throughout the day. I said I believe this, but it's more than that. I'm really curious, really eager to know what that's like because it sounds cool. I also don't believe that self-serving, pious, religious acts done for self-sanctification and holy preservation are the point of Christ's death and resurrection, so it's my goal that in this exercise I am able to listen more to the voice of God and the prompting of the Spirit... so that I can be a better servant to others.

"God is closer than you think." He is all around us, calling our names at the top of his heavenly lungs, stretching out to get our attention all the time, but we're too wrapped up in our "stuff" to hear what he has to say. Sometimes my "stuff" is good stuff distracting me from the best stuff, but sometimes I'm just up to no good. Either way, I've got to get better at reaching out to others.

In Michelangelo's "Creation" Adam sits lazily on some sort of recliner, while God the Father with all the hosts of angles at his side is making a beeline for him. God is making every effort, using all his strength to be with Adam, all Adam has to do is lift a finger. My prayer is to lift my finger more often knowing that God is trying to tell me something.

Monday, February 23, 2009

it's a (real) start

I tried to start writing a blog almost exactly one year ago today, and not surprisingly it sat in cyberspace with one lonely post (the one about how I was starting a blog...) until now. I've deleted that original masterpiece, and this is my effort of starting fresh.

Kathleen Leslie, a fellow staff member at Nativity (her blog), has just posted about "Old Kathleen" and it got me thinking about what "Old Brian" might sound like. Journeying back to February 23, 2008 would be a real hike and I don't have that kind of time. But I do want to take a minute to compare the two dates through the lens of our current message series.

Our pastor preached about feeling opposed in life and how striving to make personal improvements was like fighting in a battle. In February of last year I was doing all that I could do just to get by (financially, emotionally, spiritually) and it really did feel like a war. I was trying hard, really hard, setting goals, drawing limits, making promises, starting (but not finishing) books, and reflecting on my life. All the while I was only getting more and more tired and not having any success at all!

Comparing 2/23/08 and 2/23/09, there is one HUGE difference. I was alone. I was doing all those great things, the things that they list in self-help books, and plenty of not-so-great things, but I was on my own... I was isolated and trying to self-will some serious life change. Today, I'm not alone. I've got support, I've got family, I've got friends, (I've got a Small Group,) and all of that is true because I've come to recognize that I can't do it on my own. Last year I was opposed, and today I'm opposed; the difference maker is that today I've got an army ready for battle, and it feels great. I was never supposed to do this by myself, and honestly I never could... I'll still be opposed tomorrow, but together with you and with the grace of God I know it can get better.