Practice. Practice. Practice.
From the mind of Seth Godin
Two kinds of practice
The first is quite common. Learn to play the notes as written. Move asymptotically toward perfection. Practice your technique and your process to get yourself ever more skilled at doing it (whatever 'it' is) to spec. This is the practice of grand slalom, of arithmetic, of learning your lines or c++.
The other kind of practice is more valuable but far more rare. This is the practice of failure. Of trying on one point of view after another until you find one that works. Of creating original work that doesn't succeed until it does. Of writing, oration and higher-level math in search of an elusive outcome, even a truth, one that might not even be there.
We become original through practice. We've seduced ourselves into believing that the this sort of breakthrough springs fully formed, as Athena did from Zeus' head. Alas, that's a myth. What always happens (as you can discover by looking at the early work of anyone you admire), is that she practiced her way into it.
Love all God's creation
"Love all God's creation, the whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, every ray of God's light. Love the animals, love the plants, love everything. If you love everything you will preceive the divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, you will begin to understand it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all embracing love...Things flow and are indirectly linked together, and if you push here, something will move at the other end of the world. If you strike here, something somewhere will wince; if you sin here, something somewhere will suffer."
- Fydor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
"Love unites all, whether created or uncreated. The heart of God, the heart of all creation, and our own hearts become one in love."
That's what all the great mystics have been trying to tell us through the ages, as they witnessed to the unifying power of the divine love. Such knowledge does not come through intellectual arguments but through contemplative prayer.
God invites us into the conversation where we can speak and simply listen in the stillness of peace and grace. While one comes from the heart they other penetrates the heart. Either way, love begins and ends in the heart where it is united with all.
"The Spirit of Jesus allows us and invites us to see the heart of God, the heart of the universe, and our own hearts as one. It is in the heart of God that we can come to the full realisation of the unity of all that is, created and uncreated."
Quotes and inspiration by Henry Nouwen, Bread for the Journey (HarperCollins: 1997).
Live Life Incarnate
“Christ has no body now but yours;
God’s Spirit objectively resides in me and in you! The divine DNA is in everyone and everything God has created “from the beginning” (read Ephesians 1:3-6 as if for the first time).
As humans, we are graced with the capacity to realize this, fully enjoy it, and draw mightily from it. You might say this is what characterizes an authentic Christian.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Note that it does not just say “Jesus,” but “flesh.” Let’s make it quite specific and practical: When you get up in the morning, ask yourself, “What aspect of God, what aspect of Love, am I being called to incarnate in the world today? How can I be Jesus today?”
excerpt from Richard Rohr, Divine DNA, daily devotional downloaded on November 4, 2017.
May death be the life you
Today, as I was reading Immortal Diamond by Richard Rohr, I settled in on the chapter entitled Enlightenment by Gunpoint that speaks to the idea of a path we all must trod: the path of dying and rising. Rohr says "It alone allows us to say afterward, 'What did I ever lose by dying.' It's the letting go of all you think you are, movinginto a world without experienced context, and becoming the person you always were anyway."
"We all have to walk the human journey, someway, someday - from the Neanderthals to those walking down Madison Avenue today"
And this got me thinking. Why do we fight death? Or to put it another way, why do we fight life? Living should be the goal, right? We are here for one purpose, to live. Not survive. Not struggle. But to live.
Rohr continues by stating, "When 'this (human) body' is all you think you are, no wonder you are afraid of dying. It's all you know and have - if you have not discovered your soul, that is."
Accepting that you are going to die at some point, coming to that peace inside you (in the core of who you are and have always been), you can truly begin to love more freely, forgive more easily, and become one with one another and the One creator.
In this acceptance of death as a part of life, you begin to understand better that "you never lose anything real by dying." We begin to live a 'resurrected life' instead of fearing a lasting death.
"Once you know you are sharing in the force field of resurrection, you can always draw on it. The pressed clay or 'dust' of Adam (humanity) had then become the immortal diamond that is Christ. The breathing into Adam (Gen. 2:7) has become the breathing out of Jesus (John 20:22) and you are now sharing the breath of One Spirit. The incarnation becomes the resurrection in you."
So may death be the life of you.
Rohr, Richard. Immortal Diamond: The Search For Our True Self. (Jossy-Bass: 2013) pp 139-145.
Jesus has invited us to
“Never put off till tomorrow what can be done the day after tomorrow just as well.”
If you are like me you might think there’s always a little more time to do something else before you have to do the things you need to get done.
Of course today’s technology has made it easier to drag your feet, especially when you have to do something you don’t want to do. I’m sure there are a few reluctant people here this morning.
It’s safe to say the world is made up of those who procrastinate; those who are proactive; and those, who like me, who are proactive in procrastination.
In Matthew 25:1-13 Jesus is pretty clear on where he stands on this topic; ending his parable with a stark warning to “keep awake.” I don’t think he’s suggesting we stay up all night pumped full of Red Bull until our heart gives out. Instead he’s stating, rather matter of fact, to be ready for the future by being your best now.
Like all of his parables, Jesus uses a wedding illustration to show us what the kingdom of heaven is like. If you’ve ever had to plan a wedding you’d know it’s one of the most emotionally loaded events, outside a funeral. I can tell you by experience that even the best-planned weddings don’t always turn out as expected. While wedding customs in Jesus’ day were different, they apparently had the same potential for mishaps.
The way the wedding worked back then was rather simple, so to speak. The groom, his family and their guests would gather in their house. The bride, her family and guests would gather at theirs. At some point, the groom’s party would make their way to the bride’s house, as the guests held lit torches along the path to greet them.
The bride and groom would then go inside the house and consummate the marriage, without vows or rings being exchanged. After that moment of joy, the big party would begin. Unlike most wedding stories, this one does not focus on the bride and groom. Instead it’s on ten specific bridesmaids who were invited to the party. Five of these women are wise. Five are foolish.
While there was not a definite start time, you knew it was going to happen on a given day or the next at the latest. So, like the wise bridesmaids, you came prepared for the wait; always ready to join the celebration at any time.
So what does a wedding teach us about the kingdom of heaven?
Is Jesus saying only the wise will get in? Perhaps. It seems not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will get in.
But moreover, I think what Jesus is telling us is the kingdom of heaven is not just coming at some futuristic date, but that the kingdom is happening right now… as we wait! This not only adds to the drama of the parable, but to the immediacy of living now! How we live today in the present kingdom prepares us for the one to come.
The question comes back to: Are you being proactive or still procrastinating?
You might have notice that the only difference between the foolish and the wise bridesmaids is the wise are proactive and come prepared with extra oil to last them through the darkness. The foolish have to go find an Oil Lamps ‘R’ Us store that’s open in the middle of the night!
By emphasizing the lamp oil in this story, I believe Jesus is equating it to faith.
The way I see it, the wise come prepared with enough faith today to get them through the wait and uncertainty of tomorrow. The foolish don’t. They want the faith of the wise, only to discover it can’t be shared. I can share common fellowship with you, but my personal faith is uniquely mine. Just the same, yours is yours. We all must have our own spiritual reserves that get us through the dark and unknown.
Why is this important for us today? In the midst of life’s joys and pain, ease and adversity, intrigue and boredom, it’s our faith that keeps our inner, personal light shining. It gives us what we need to live intentionally in community, and steadfast in word and prayer.
Our faith provides a strong foundation for having mercy, offering forgiveness, walking humbly, spreading justice and sharing peace to the world.
And the way we build that faith up is by being proactive and putting it to use. A shallow well of faith might get you to church one day a week, but is it enough to get you through the other six?
Jesus says, keep awake. Never give up on your faith. You don’t have to be perfect or wise, you just have to push onward and upward. God knows you’re going to fail from time to time. That’s okay, because it shows God that you are trying.
God simply wants you to participate in the kingdom of heaven now, and to remain being proactive in your pursuit of doing God’s will. I think even God would agree that doing something that deepens your faith and failing at it is far better than doing nothing at all.
Faith takes work. And there’s no better time than now to begin.
If the 300+ mass shootings that have taken place this past year have taught us anything, it’s that there is no time like the present to prepare for the future.
I’m not talking about stockpiling ammo, or making an exit plan (which is good), or being leery of your neighbors. Instead, we are called to reach out to others, and share with them the light of love as a way to greet them and celebrate with them. I believe such random acts of kindness could be the one thing that changes a person’s mind from doing a violent act.
Now is the time for active discipleship. Now is the time to take up our cross and follow Jesus, to pursue him and imitate him. Every moment we let pass is time ticking off the clock before the doors are shut.
It’s been said, “The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it.” We presume that we have all the time in the world to tend to rebuild a broken relationship, replace a bad habit with a good one, achieve a goal, or learning a new skill. But far too often we procrastinate, push it off until tomorrow or the next day.
Christ has invited us to the wedding celebration. But are we ready to go?
It’s never too late to deepen a relationship with God or follow Christ more faithfully. The kingdom of heaven summons us to live a new life, committed and active, as we wait in hope, building our reserves of faith that prepare us to weather the unexpected timing of God. By this we can let our light shine brightly for others to see the way.
I will leave you with this one last little thought. It is wise to fill your lamp with good things, but those things are for us to use now, on this side of eternity.
Thanks be to our Lord, there is already more than enough light at the banquet that awaits us all. So shine today, and every day as you light the way of truth and righteousness towards the greatest celebration of divine love. Amen.
Bartlett, David L, Barbara Brown Taylor, eds. Feasting on the Word, Year A, vol. 4. (Louisville, Westminster John Knox) 2011. pp. 284-289.
Kelley, Shannon. Be Prepared. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/lessons/2014/09/21/be-prepared/
"Mercy is God’s innermost being turned outward to sustain the visible and created world in unbreakable love."
The mercy of God does not come and go, granted to some and refused to others. Why? Because it is unconditional—always there, underlying everything.
It is literally the force that holds everything in existence, the gravitational field in which “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28)
Cynthia Bourgeault, Mystical Hope: Trusting in the Mercy of God. (Cowley Publications: 2001), pp 25-26.
God Has A Drinking Problem.
Jesus is thirsty and we are the ones with the bucket.
A little country boy name Willy was sent by his grandmother down to the water hole to get a bucket of water for Sunday’s supper.
As Willy dipped the bucket in, he saw two big mean looking eyes staring back at him. Scared, Willy dropped the bucket and ran to tell his Grandma what he saw.
After hearing his story, Grandma told him, “Don’t you be afraid, that old gator’s been down there since I was your age. He’s never hurt nobody. And he’s probably more scared of you than you are of him!”
"Well, Grandma," replied Willy, "if that’s the case, then that water ain't fit to drink!"
We all need it, and without it all of us would die within a few days. In fact, it’s so important that your body actually has a drought management system in place to ensure our survival.
Just a mere 2% drop in our body's water supply can trigger dizziness, lack of focus, and bad jokes. And as that percentage increases so do your chances of greater health risks due to severe dehydration.
Just as a car cannot run without gas and oil, the body cannot work without water. It serves as a lubricant in digestion, regulates body temperature, and flushes harmful toxins from the body.
It’s essential to the food we eat. Fly over the American Great Plains and look down on the brown and green patchwork, and you’ll see where there is water, there is life.
In the bible alone, the word water appears 770 times; it’s rich with symbolic imagery. With it God created, purged, and blessed the Earth. God has used water to give a curse and to show favor. And water has been used to harm one's enemy and help offer aid as well. It’s been prayed for, wept over, and longed for. And it has caused as much fear as it has relief.
In the cold, wild waters of the Jordan River, the humanity of Jesus is baptized. And just the same, when he quieted a chaotic storm, walked on water, or turned water into wine, Jesus' divinity was made known.
Today, we sit with Jesus by an ancient well, as he uses an earthly situation to make a spiritual point: Where there is living water, there is everlasting life.
I’ve spent the better part of this week spiritually dry and thirsting for something more than what the world was offering me. Has that ever happened to you? Maybe right now you are sitting there feeling completely dehydrated and depleted of joy or inspiration? I get it. I’ve been going through it all week.
It’s in dry times like this that God calls you to sit at the well, drop your empty bucket into the deep unknown, and draw from the living waters to find your refreshment: a renewed and everlasting life.
As a well gives water to our bodies, God gives life to our souls.
Like the diverse symbolism of water, this one passage in John’s gospel is loaded with all sorts of good inspiration. Which is why I abandoned the lectionary this week to draw from this particular well. In the bible study this week, I invite you to put yourself in the story. You are the one who comes to the well. You are the one Jesus starts a conversation with. You are holding the bucket. And so you are the one who can help Jesus quench his thirst.
Plot Twist: The thirsty stranger is not the Samaritan woman. It’s Jesus.
Although Jesus was Divine, he was also human. He got tired like us. Hungry like us. And yes, he even got thirsty like us. I never thought of Jesus like me. And I certainly never thought he’d come to me to find refreshment. It’s supposed to be the other way around, right?
Sip on that for a moment. God thirsts for us; so much so that he came to be with us; to meet us at the well and to teach us about life, how to drink it in and share it with others. This sheds new light on Jesus and the Beatitude, “How blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness sake, for they will be filled.” God is blessed when we are filled, vise-versa. Living water flows both ways.
Through us, God’s righteousness is satiated. His hunger for justice, mercy, and peace is fed. As God drinks us in, we become an inseparable part of him; we become living water. Where there is living water, there is everlasting life.
Jesus is thirsty and we are the ones with the bucket.
You’d think it would be easy for a thirsty man to get a drink at a well, but Jesus cannot do it by himself. He has no cup, no bucket. It’s not like he can just waltz into a 7-11 and stick his head under the soda fountain. He relies on a stranger, a Samaritan, a woman. By this humble act, we learn how to care for the simple needs of one another. Even those we are taught to avoid.
Bishop Desmond Tutu would say, “A mighty ocean is made up of little drops. Just do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
When Jesus asks for a drink of water, he is doing more than looking to quench his thirst. He is offering us an opportunity to see the Messiah in the face of a stranger. And to act accordingly. It’s through our selfless actions, that God’s love is revealed to the world. Just as we trickle into God, God comes gushing out through us like a broken water main. It’s newsworthy, and bound to get noticed.
Because she stopped to help a thirsty stranger, her life would be forever changed. And so is her community.
John’s gospel shows us how one simple act of kindness, done with selfless love, begins our salvation journey into renewal.
This story is not just about going to the well to find our faith, but what we do for the world with our faith bucket. It’s about knowing who Jesus is and doing what he asks us to do. A well full of water is only able to provide refreshment for those who seek it. And if it’s not used, our faith can become like stagnate water. Thus, God is calling us to be living water; to provide nourishment, restore hope, and replenish joy during those spiritually dry times.
As you go out into the world, to school or to work or to be with friends, remember this:
God has a drinking problem that needs your immediate attention. You are the one holding the bucket. Is it empty? Or is it full?
Through Christ, God has given us a way to participate in the very source from which all life originated, even when we are feeling spiritually parched. But will we go to the well or share the good news we draw from it?
With every act of kindness, righteousness is quenched. And love and mercy fill the deepest wells within us, and throughout all of creation. Yes, God is thirsty, for us and for righteousness.
And so, sip-by-sip God drinks us in, mixing us together, with all the saints, into the eternal living waters. And where there is living water, there is everlasting life.
An ex-copywriter turned punk rock pastor and peacemaker who dedicates his life to making the world a better place for all humanity.
"that they all might be one" ~John 17:21
~ St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)