Powerful “Poortraits” of the Soul

the-passion-of-the-christ crucifiedIn all honesty, once it was on top and fully part of the establishment, the Church was a bit embarrassed by the powerless one, Jesus. We had to make his obvious defeat into a glorious victory that had nothing to do with defeat–his or ours. Let’s face it, we feel more comfortable with power than with powerlessness. Who wants to be like Jesus on the cross, the very icon of powerlessness? It just doesn’t look like a way of influence, a way of access, a way that’s going to make any difference in the world. We are such a strange religion! We worship this naked, bleeding loser, crucified outside the walls of Jerusalem, but we always want to be winners, powerful, and on top ourselves . . . at least until we learn to love the little things and the so-called little people, and then we often see they are not little at all, but better images of the soul.outcasts

Yes, those with mental and physical disabilities, minority groups, refugees, the addicted, the homosexual, the prisoner–anybody who’s failed in our nicely constructed social or economic success system–can be our best teachers in the ways of the Gospel. They represent what we are most afraid of within ourselves, what we most deny within ourselves. That’s why we must learn to love our “enemy”; we absolutely must or we will never know how to love our own soul, or the soul of anything. Please think about that until it makes sense to you. It eventually will, by the grace of God.

One of the most transformative experiences is entering into some form of lifestyle solidarity with the powerless. It’s like changing sides from the ego side of things, and this just livingis what changes you. We don’t think ourselves into a new way of living; we live ourselves into a new way of thinking. It is lifestyle choices that convert people. I am not aware that merely believing a doctrine or dogma has ever converted anybody. That should be obvious by now.

Someone once pointed out to me that most of the great founders of communities, including Francis of Assisi, Mother Katherine Drexel, Vincent de Paul, Benedict, John Baptist de la Salle, and Mother Seton all started out as what we would now call middle class or even upper class. They first had enough comfort and security and leisure to move beyond their need for more comfort and security and leisure (because they saw it did not satisfy or feed the soul). Each in their own way changed sides and worked in solidarity with those who did not have their advantages.

-Fr. Richard Rohr

Like in the story of the Good Samaritan: The outcasts, weak, addicted, afflicted armissionale our life mentors.  Broken people and people from outside the margins…that is where interpretation needs to come from. We think that we are going to them to help them but the thing that happens is that they teach us. They are so much closer to surrender and we still have so much stuff to let go of before we can get to that place of surrender where we can let go of everything. -Walter Brueggemann

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Increase your Dosage of Communion.

blood covenantFor those of you who may be in desperate need of a loving encounter, healing touch, fresh intake of grace or a sacred romance with the Lord Jesus.

Simply stand or sit quietly with a small piece of bread-Body and small sip of wine-Blood and just hold it and contemplate the unfathomable, limitless life offered.

Let your thoughts metamorphosis into meditation.  Let your mouth and eyes water as you behold all the benefits and healing properties procured by his life giving love.  Whisper out in a few small words your deepest, most sincere and heart-formed prayer that were distilled from your moments of meditating.

Eat slowly and let your taste buds tingle as your mouth waters and recognize you are breathdigesting Life. Become intoxicated by the fragrance of the nectar and take a slow, deliberate and deep inhale of unquestionable grace. Then allow your pallet to be overwhelmed by the sensation of the flavor of love, life, healing, forgiveness and favor as it trickles through your mouth with the cleansing properties of a pure life swept into every capillary of your created body.

The crescendo of gratitude that will come will be a rush and sensation that will elevate your spirit and be a shot of eternal adrenaline from the Body of the Creator who created your body.

Intentionally draw a deep cleansing breath that is full of peace, calm, and wonder. Then gradually release a gentle exhale of the gift of life that has been sealed inside of you since you were formed in the womb.  Let the life he placed in you through that initial breath now be accelerated by the Body and Blood of his Presence as you encounter, experience and then go forth to express the surreal reality of being made whole in your entire body, soul and spirit.

communion_hands_breaking_breadTake it alone and/or together, but increase your dosage of holy Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Covenant meal, the Eucharistic feast, the Table.  Happy are those who are invited to the feast.  May the divine assistance be with you spirit.

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Prayers of Passion

Prayer Man WarriorThe book of Hebrews describes the prayer life of Jesus in the following way: “While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could deliver him” (5:7 NLT).

That doesn’t sound like the way prayers are offered up in most churches on a typical Sunday morning. “Dear Lord, we thank you for this day, and we ask you to be with us in all we say and do. Amen.” No pleading here, Cut-Flowersno loud cries and tears. Our prayers are cordial, modest, even reverent. Eugene Peterson calls them “cut-flower prayers.”

They are not like Jesus’ prayers, or, for that matter, like the psalms. The ranting and raving, the passion and ecstasy, the fury and desolation found in the psalms are so far from our religious expression that it seems hard to believe they were given to us as our guide to prayer. They seem so, well, desperate. Yet E. M. Bounds reminds us,

baptism drownedDesire gives fervor to prayer. The soul cannot be listless when some great desire fixes and inflames it…Strong desires make strong prayers…The neglect of prayer is the fearful token of dead spiritual desires…There can be no true praying without desire. (Man of Prayer)

-John Eldredge

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Observance of a holy Lent…a holy Life

Cross ColorfulMost holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have been led astray by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart.
We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have compassion on us, Lord.

We have been unmoved by your call to serve,
as Christ served us.
We have not prized the mind of Christ.
We have trivialized your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past disloyalty:
The pride, duplicity, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

cross2Our unrestrained appetites, addictions and selfish ways,
our manipulation of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own imperfections, and our envy
of those more privileged than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our entitlements for worldly goods and comforts,
and our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our prayerlessness and self-indulgent worship,
and our failure to mention the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

For the offenses we have committed:
For being callous to human need, tragedy and suffering,
and our indifference to injustice and retaliation,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

cross 4For all false judgments, for unkind thoughts
toward others, and for our prejudice
and hatred toward those who are not like us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our toxic waste and pollution of your creation,
and our lack of concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, holy Lord,
and let your wrath depart from us;
Graciously hear us, for your mercy is boundless.

Undertake in us again the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your beauty in all the world.

Through the Incarnation, Crucifixion, Resurrection and Exaltation of the Son of God: transform lives, renew your church and engage our culture under the benevolence of your right to rule the nations now as King.

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Church: a Non-Prophet Corporation

religionIn case you have forgotten the gathering of the church isn’t for guests, visitors or the uninitiated. It’s for believers, the faithful, followers and worshipers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In case you have forgotten, your personal, private life is now a member of the Body of Christ and is to be given away to serve others and invite them into your life and love with Jesus.  Jesus’ own life was one day in the synagogue and six days living, working, serving and ministering among the community.

Try going to a synagogue, mosques, shrine, temple of any other religious establishment and see if their gathering is geared toward you. I have and it’s not. You’re welcome there for the most part, but they are not catering to you. I’m not sure you get a visitors parking space or special treatment, they usually reserve that for their devotion to their deity.  Only the church as a business is more concerned with welcoming customers than worshiping their deity.

I even understand the Table of the Lord being an “open table” to whosoever will may come.  Then again, I recognize that the liturgy/ministry of the Table is reserved for the initiated/family of sons and daughters of the living God.  Even children of the covenant community need to be catechized to the ways and teaching of the Lord and his church.

Moses Two TabletsThe church stills loves to live under the old covenant of, we want Moses to talk to God for us, so we can go on living our life and pay our respects to the God on top of the mountain during visiting hours every week.

Let me ask you, Is your life, home, time, hospitality, gifts, resources, family, work, lunch, free time, etc. lived as the church or do you just attend a church?

Church = 1 hour a week
Your life = 167 hrs a week

Good 2We can talk about the story of the Good Samaritan, but even he was just walking through life.  So as you are going through life and you reach and rescue a man robbed like all of us because of the thief, then by all means minister to him and bring him to the Inn/Church, but one hour a week will not constitute him becoming a healed and whole disciple of Jesus.

If you are a stranger to the Way, you can come to our gathering, but we didn’t assemble because we were expecting to see you, we were expecting to see Him and honestly what we do, you may consider as not being for you.  But, then again, you may come face to face, if those who have gathered have been seeking his face instead of yours, with the One who gave you life and breath.  We call him Master, Creator, Redeemer, King.

The consumer church has become a non-prophet corporation.  “We are not the church when we come to church if we’re not the church before we come to church.” — Dallas Willard

Consumer church

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Apostolic Suffering

Prayer over the cityThe only person who suffers more than the Prophet is the Apostle. I thought I was planting a church, but God is growing an Apostle.

I have been ministering in my city for nearly 4 years among the dangerously irreverent. It’s not what you would call a church. It’s more like an apostolic missionary base.

Apostolic anointing doesn’t just change nations it leaves FOUNDATIONS in the NATIONS. -Wynne Goss

The final stage is true apostolic life: The Spirit given realization that
we possess NOTHING, that we are of value because of what we are NOT.

It’s the spear that pierces your side. It’s laying down under a broom tree…with no Prayer Man Warriorknowledge that a raven is coming. It’s sitting in a dungeon with no dreams to interpret. It’s boxing against the air, wrestling in the dark, it’s grasping after the wind, prophesying to bones, its losing your life so you can find one, it’s the path of the apostolic prophet, it’s a lifetime in the desert for a day on the mountain, it’s whittling down your army to 300 when you wanted 3000. It’s walking in the field as the poor & sleeping on the floor of the rich, it’s exercising madness and expecting gladness. Bottom line: we don’t know what we are doing or what it means.

This is not how we plant churches or prepare vessels of honorable character anymore.

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Baby Baptism and Beyond

baptism bishopTo the Church about to Baptize My Baby:

Be warned.

It’s all cuteness and lace now, but in no time at all, my little baby boy- after a brief sojourn in childhood- will hit adolescence. His hormones will kick in and quickly conspire to undo all the good you’ve done in him.  These will be the years that he’ll push you, Church.

He’ll suddenly wonder how Jonah could survive that dark trip in the whale’s belly. He’ll argue that David may have bested Goliath but that he’s no match for Tom Brady and, besides, David’s hardly the unblemished hero his Sunday School teachers made him out to be. Proud of himself, he’ll point out that Noah never would have had to build the ark had God not decided to flood everything and everyone in the world.

He’ll push you, and if you’re not up to the challenge he’ll be tempted conclude that everything you’ve taught him and everything you teach is, at best, a fairy tale and, at worst, a lie.

And this might be the first time someone he knows or loves dies.TrophyGrace_06_trophiesofgrace

When that happens, Church, you better not resort to clichés. You better be prepared to show him resurrection-of-the-body hope at work among you.

You might as well get ready now, Church, because when those years arrive you will have to struggle just to have your voice heard above all the callings that claim his attention and tempt his loyalty.  Just when time seems to race by for his parents, tomorrow will seem forever away to him. Everything, from the face he sees in the morning mirror to the fickle loyalties of his friends, will change almost every day.

And whether he knows it or not, Church, what he will need from you all is a community of constancy. He will need a people who refuse to let go of him, who refuse to let go of what they know to be true and enduring, who refuse to let him slip away before he learns to describe his world with the language you speak.

prodigal_sonAnd he’ll never admit it to you Church, but what he’ll need in those years is a place where he need not wear a mask, a place where vulnerability isn’t a dirty word, a place where a life of mercy and love and gratitude is a viable and even compelling alternative.

And then he’ll start high school. You’ll only have four years of Sundays left with him. Be warned: it will be harder for you to get his attention because he’ll no longer be listening to your words.

He’ll be looking at your life.

I know, scary right?

When he worships with you, he’ll wonder if you’re as friendly as you think you are. He’ll wonder if you ever experience awe and mystery or whether you’re just ticking off your weekly obligation and hoping it won’t be too boring. He’ll wonder if you’re loose and free enough to allow the Spirit to enter your worship.

And your lives.

He’ll look at your life, Church, and he’ll question whether you conform your views and worshipvalues to the God of Jesus Christ or whether you’ve sketched an idol in your own un-threatening image. He probably won’t put it in those words, Church, or any words at all for that matter, but trust me he’ll be thinking it.

In these years, his BS Radar will be acute so you better not patronize him, Church. You have a tendency to do that when a young person puts you on your heels by asking questions. You better learn how to treat him as a member of the Body of the Christ.

This may be the last time you have his attention. So, for his sake, I hope you lead a life that leads to the Gospel.

And I pray that, just when he’s being pressured and pushed to get ahead, to pursue his future, to achieve success, and to grab after his dreams, by then you will have taught him that servant-hood is the only path that leads to treasure.

Good 2A place where he’ll find the Lamb of God in your flesh. A place where he’ll discover the coming Kingdom previewed in your lives. A place where he’ll learn that God is to be found among the lame and the poor and the outcast- not because you tell him but because you, Church, invite him to come and see for himself.

When my baby boy becomes an old man, when his waist is slightly thicker and his hair a little thinner- when he has a whole new set of questions, new hopes and different struggles ahead- I hope he will be able to remember his baptism and be thankful.

There will come a time- there always does- when my boy will look desperately for where the living God can be found. When that time does come, Church, I hope he will have a community who won’t just shrug their shoulders, who won’t refer him to the pastor, who won’t quote the Bible at him or try to prove anything to him.

Don’t you dare do that to him, Church.

baptismal font 2Instead you better be able, because of the integrity of your life, to say to him: ‘Come and See.’

Church, that’s the sort of Church I would want to give my life so I’m willing to bet he’d give his life to it too.

In closing, Church-

Before the water hits my baby’s head, I hope the irony will have hit you upside yours: my boy will never be able to live out his baptism if you, Church, don’t live out yours.

Sincerely, A Concerned Parent

Jason Micheli blogs

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