Wednesday, October 24, 2007

In to the Father, Out to Others

I have been thinking a lot about my daily life and what the rhythm of my life should be. Basically the question I ask a lot is how much of my time should be "in", in solitude, and how much should be "out", interacting with others. I know I need both, it's just how much of each should I have? I more naturally have a drawing to go inward, but I also find a needful and a compassionate compelling to go outward too.

A little while ago I read a book by Henri Nouwen called Out of Solitude, which speaks poignantly to this tension in our lives. His text is Mark 1:32-39. Sandwiched in between verses talking about Jesus healing, and preaching and casting out demons is this verse: "In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there."

Nouwen goes on to write:

In the center of breathless activities we hear a restful breathing. Surrounded by hours of moving we find a moment of quiet stillness. In the heart of much involvement there are words of withdrawal. In the midst of action there is contemplation. And after much togetherness there is solitude....I have the sense that the secret of Jesus' ministry is hidden in that lonely place where he went to pray, early in the morning, long before dawn.

In the lonely place Jesus finds the courage to follow God's will and not his own; to speak God's words and not his own; to do God's work and not his own. He reminds us constantly: "I can do nothing by aim is to do not my own will, but the will of him who sent me" (John 5:30).

Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our lives are in danger. Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures. The careful balance between silence and words, withdrawal and involvement, distance and closeness, solitude and community forms the basis of the Christian life and should therefore be the subject of our most personal attention." (p. 13-15)

Surely if Jesus lived a life of withdrawing to spend time with the Father, we too should live our lives this way. It is not so important how much we do for God, as what - or who - is the source of all our doing. Jesus did nothing apart from the Father, though He surely could've done a lot. I want to live my life the same way, taking time to hear from the Father, and drawing supply from the Father, so I can live out the life He is calling me to live with others.

Our lives should be a graceful rhythm of going in to the Father, going out to others; in to the Father, out to others. How much time doing each will fluctuate from day to day. The main thing is making the time to have this discipline. Going out is easy and often compelling, because we live in a busy world that can demand much of us. All the more we need to determine to create that precious space to be with our Father daily.

Monday, October 8, 2007

monday morning

fall is here
cool mornings at last
taking advantage I go for a walk
in the nearby park
on this monday morning

the air is filled with the
earthy smell of the
freshly mown carpet of green
notably devoid of the weekend’s
softball-playing men
soccer-playing kids
and picnicking families
it is a quiet monday morning

maintenance men ride
puttering tractor mowers
looking like boys at play
gloating I’m sure
as people fly by in
metal cubicles
rushing to reach stuffy offices
on a workaday monday morning

leashed dogs tug and pull
and sniff one another
while their people converse
oblivious of their power
to disarm awkwardness
and bring strangers together
on a generic monday morning

small clusters of moms
begin to gather here and there
for their power walks
offspring safely deposited at school
eager for girl talk again
glad it is monday morning

breathing deeply of grassy air
my eyes linger on the pleasingness
of shade trees still full of green leaves
then rise to take in nearby
dark shadowed mountains
contrasting sharply against the horizon
I feel the warmth of brilliant sun
in cloudless blue sky
gently penetrating morning coolness

I walk and let myself be alive
to all that is around me
then my mind meanders
to home and morning schedule
to daily Bible reading and journaling
suddenly an epiphanic moment ~
I am surrounded by Word
right here

in the beginning God spoke
“Land appear!”
“Earth, green up!”
“Earth, generate life!”
“Let us make human beings in our image!”
and God saw that it was all very good

taking in deeply what God has spoken
spontaneous song lyrics well up
“give thanks! with a grateful heart!”
as I walk through the park
on a glorious monday morning

Saturday, October 6, 2007

her need

she called me saying
she wanted to talk

now we sit facing each other
and she begins to recount
the saga of the last few months
of a heart offered
and hurt
again and again

tears rim her eyes
her pretty face shadowed
with the pain
of disappointment
and betrayal

so many things I could say
but no
better to be quiet
her head already knows
what I would tell her

she doesn't need my advice
she just needs someone
to listen

to care about her heart

as we rise to go I hug her
and say I will be praying for her
"oh!" she exclaims
"that's what I need!"

yes, I say to myself
as she walks away
what she needs most right now
is to know someone cares
someone is praying

"Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs....Keep on on praying. " (I Thes. 5:14,17)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Soul Friends

"Soul friends show hospitality by making space in their lives for others....Soul hosts prepare for their gift of hospitality by cultivating a place of quiet within themselves. This is the place where they will receive others....When I have begun to be a person with a quiet, still center, I can invite others to come and rest there. It is out of this place that soul friends offer their gifts of presence, stillness, safety and love." (Sacred Companions by David Benner)

This is such a beautiful picture of hospitality. Often we think of the outward aspects of opening our home or sharing a meal with others when we hear the word hospitality. And yes, we may share outward space with others, but what about our inward space? Have we made room in our hearts for others? The real essence of true hospitality is that in opening up our home to others, in making extra room at the table for them, we are also opening up our inward parts to them. We are inviting others not merely into the physical space of a house, but into our hearts too. We have prepared a warm and welcoming place for others to come into and be loved.

"...given to hospitality." (Romans 12:13)