Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Pursuing the Greatness of God

by Ted Wueste
In her book, Invitation to Silence and Solitude , Ruth Haley Barton writes: "Your desire for God and your capacity to connect with God as a human soul is the essence of who you are."

We all have the desire to see, experience, and live under the greatness of who God is. When we see an amazing sunset or stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon or spend time listening/singing to song which speaks of God's greatness or spend time with someone we love, we are taken in and captured by the greatness of God. And, it is something that we long to experience all the time - not just at moments but moment by moment.

This moment by moment worship of God is at the very heart of why we embrace spiritual disciplines. It is to create space where we can experience Him, not as a random occurrence but the very heartbeat of our lives. For all of us, we have that desire to connect with God - to see Him for who He is and to respond to Him for who He is - that is the essence of worship. If you haven't already - what are the specific disciplines that you need to pursue? Look back over the previous weeks - what disciplines most draw you into seeing God's greatness? Then, when will you do it? None of these things will be dynamic in your life until they become specific!

What is the fruit of pursuing God's greatness? Kathy Smith sent the following to me from a devotional she reads each day: "Experiencing normal Christianity through the week yields such a sweet, intimate, obedient relationship with God that we don't attend the worship service to get recharged; we attend the services to discharge our worship and praise to the Lord because we're over flowing with love and gratitude (Psalm 23:5)." Bill Gillham (http://www.lifetime.org/devotional.php)

What is that normal Christianity? Gillham goes on to say ...
"By letting Christ express His life through us on a moment-by-moment basis, we experience the overcoming, abundant life that Jesus spoke of (John 10:10). Many Christians have taken the independent, do-it-yourself exit off God's "freeway." Cordless Christianity explains why many Christians experience unexciting or perhaps defeated lives. It explains everything from the so-called male mid-life crisis to depression, sheer boredom to anxiety attacks, passivity to dominance, abrasiveness to "wimping out," the workaholic to the sofa spud, legalism to hedonism, perfectionism to slovenliness, etc. These are all manifestations of living in the power of human flesh. Jesus Christ is the only One who ever lived the Christian life, and I have found that by letting Him express His life through us, by faith, we experience the Christian life as God intends."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pursuing the Love of God Pt 2

by Ted Wueste

One of our folks sent this little parable to me today. It fits really well with what we've been discussing about opening ourselves up to God and each other. Read - enjoy - apply - discuss amongst yourselves ...

The Land of Boxes
There once was a land where everyone lived in boxes. The boxes were strong cubicles with holes in the bottoms where the people could stick their feet out so they could walk around. The boxes were quite dark inside, but each one came with their own light. If the people bumped into each other… That was ok- because the boxes protected them. The people became known as boxers. As soon as a new little boxer or boxette was born they were fitted with their own little box. The boxes kept the people safe, but they also kept out the sun and the beauty of the land around them- and Boxville was a very beautiful town. But the people seemed content- after all they had never experienced anything else, and some people lived in some pretty elaborate boxes.

Then it happened… One day one of the boxers accidentally fell off a cliff and his box was shattered. For the first time in his life he saw all the beauty around him. He felt a freedom he had never experienced before. He quickly went to his wife and told her about the beauty outside the box. Cautiously she removed her box. The sun was so warm and inviting, and she felt relatively safe as her husband was the only other one outside the box.

“Let’s keep this quiet,” she said. “It’s safer that way.”

But alas, a neighbor had heard her squeals of delight as she had exited her box… and he too shed his box. Pretty soon the word spread to all the boxers in Boxville and boxes were coming off right and left. Oh, there were a few who did not care to exit their boxes- after all they had lived there all their lives and they were quite comfortable in their boxes.

And then the inevitable happened. Polly box bumped into Molly box. Without her protective box she felt a new yet somehow familiar pain. But before she could say “ouch” the King of Boxville showed up with some Neosporin and a hug.

Pretty soon everyone was bumping into everyone else. They felt very vulnerable. And so most of them crawled back into their boxes and lived unhappily ever after.

The few that remained outside of their boxes enjoyed the sun and the beauty all around them. Oh, sure they bumped into each other every now and then, but it seemed the king was always there with His Neosporin and His hugs. After a little while they didn’t seem to bump into each other nearly as often. In fact, they almost seemed to enjoy bumping into a friend every now and then. They found they did not need the Neosporin nearly as much, but the hugs were always welcome.

And they lived happily ever after.

Moral of the story: Don’t crawl back into your box!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Pursuing the Love of God

by Ted Wueste
In many ways, pursuing God's love is a part 2 of Pursuing Brokenness. It is when we begin to allow God to peel back the layers - to remove the exoskeleton - that we begin to experience and appreciate God's love. Why? Because it is then that we are able to begin to love and be loved by others. Here is the piece of art that we shared on Sunday morning (from Angela Culpepper)

“When you are revealed it is raw and painful and naked. Being revealed and exposed hurts! And, you have no idea how you will be received and maybe you will be damaged further. To walk around skinless is very, very hard.” Angela Culpepper

This connects with what A. W. Tozer wrote

“To tear it away is to injure us, to hurt us and make us bleed. To say otherwise is to make the cross no cross and death no death at all. It is never fun to die. To rip through the dear and tender stuff of which life is made can never be anything but deeply painful. Yet that is what the cross did to Jesus and it is what the cross would do to every man to set him free."

Finally, Alan Jones (Soul Making)shares that "The task of love is to help us rid ourselves of the exoskeleton, to lay us bare, to set us free. But we love the prison house. The place of bondage is, at least, familiar. Love, then, comes as an unwelcome shock."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pursuing Brokenness

by Ted Wueste

God calls us to Himself and he "bids us die" (as the old hymn goes). The biblical understanding of the phrase "take up your cross" has been lost in our world. It is often used to speak of someone taking on a burden or enduring a burden of some kind. However, the call to "die" is one in which we intentionally allow God to strip us of self - those self-protective layers that we accumulate over the years. The joy in this is that our freedom in life is experienced when we submit, surrender, and die --- we are never more free/never more "the true us" than when we choose to live in the "water" of dependent/surrendered relationship with God.

Joe Darr sent this passage from one of C.S. Lewis' Narnia tales --- its the story of a dragon being "stripped" by the great lion Aslan (for the uninitiated: Aslan is the Christ figure in the Narnia stories) ...

"Well, last night I was more miserable than ever. And that beastly arm-ring was hurting like anything-"

"Is that all right now?"

Eustace laughed - a different laugh from any Edmund had heard him give before - and slipped the bracelet easily off his arm. "There it is," he said, "and anyone who likes can have it as far as I'm concerned. Well, as I say, I was lying awake and wondering what on earth would become of me. And then - but, mind you, it may have been all a dream. I don't know."

"Go on," said Edmund, with considerable patience.

"Well, anyway, I looked up and saw the very last thing I expected: a huge lion coming slowly towards me. And one queer thing was that there was no moon last night, but there was moonlight where the lion was. So it came nearer and nearer. I was terribly afraid of it. You may think that, being a dragon, I could have knocked any lion out easily enough. But it wasn't that kind of fear. I wasn't afraid of it eating me, I was just afraid of it - if you can understand. Well, it came closer up to me and looked straight into my eyes. And I shut my eyes tight. But that wasn't any good because it told me to follow it."

"You mean it spoke?"

"I don't know. Now that you mention it, I don't think it did. But it told me all the same. And I knew I'd have to do what it told me, so I got up and followed it. And it led me a long way into the mountains. And there was always this moonlight over and round the lion wherever we went. So at last we came to the top of a mountain I'd never seen before and on the top of this mountain there was a garden - trees and fruit and everything. In the middle of it there was a well.
"I knew it was a well because you could see the water bubbling up from the bottom of it: but it was a lot bigger than most wells - like a very big, round bath with marble steps going down into it. The water was as clear as anything and I thought if I could get in there and bathe it would ease the pain in my leg. But the lion told me I must undress first. Mind you, I don't know if he said any words out loud or not.

"I was just going to say that I couldn't undress because I hadn't any clothes on when I suddenly thought that dragons are snaky sort of things and snakes can cast their skins. Oh, of course, thought I, that's what the lion means. So I started scratching myself and my scales began coming off all over the place. And then I scratched a little deeper and, instead of just scales coming off here and there, my whole skin started peeling off beautifully, like it does after an illness, or as if I was a banana. In a minute or two, I just stepped out of it. I could see it lying there beside me, looking rather nasty. It was a most lovely feeling. So I started to go down into the well for my bathe.

"But just as I was going to put my foot into the water I looked down and saw that it was all hard and rough and wrinkled and scaly just as it had been before. Oh, that's all right, said I, it only means I had another smaller suit on underneath the first one, and I'll have to get out of it too. So I scratched and tore again and this under skin peeled off beautifully and out I stepped and left it lying beside the other one and went down to the well for my bathe.

"Well, exactly the same thing happened again. And I thought to myself, oh dear, how ever many skins have I got to take off? For I was longing to bathe my leg. So I scratched away for the third time and got off a third skin, just like the two others, and stepped out of it. But as soon as I looked at myself in the water I knew it had been no good.

"Then the lion said - but I don't know if it spoke - You will have to let me undress you. I was afraid of his claws, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now. So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.

"The very first tear he made was so deep that I thought it had gone right into my heart. And when he began pulling the skin off, it hurt worse than anything I've ever felt. The only thing that made me able to bear it was just the pleasure of feeling the stuff peel off. You know - if you've ever ever picked the scab of a sore place. It hurts like billy-oh but it is such fun to see it coming away."

"I know exactly what you mean," said Edmund.

"Well, he peeled the beastly stuff right off - just as I thought I'd done it myself the other three times, only they didn't hurt - and there it was lying on the grass: only ever so much thicker, and darker, and more knobbly looking than the others had been. And there was I as smooth and soft as a peeled switch and smaller than I had been. Then he caught hold of me - I didn't like that much for I was very tender underneath now that I'd no skin on - and threw me into the water. It smarted like anything but only for a moment. After that it became perfectly delicious and as soon as I started swimming and splashing I found that all the pain had gone from my arm. And then I saw why. I'd turned into a boy again. You'd think me simply phoney if I told you how I felt about my own arms. I know they've no muscle and are pretty mouldy compared with Caspian's, but I was so glad to see them."

A couple of pages later it reads:
"It would be nice, and fairly nearly true, to say that 'from that time forth Eustace was a different boy.' To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun."

Friday, August 8, 2008

STOP DAY Reflections

by Ted Wueste

Last week, we looked at the need to have STOP DAYs and STOP Moments if we are going to rest in Christ. I received an email on Sunday afternoon that was a perfect illustration of what it means to struggle with the text of Scripture – to seek earnestly after the truth of God! With the emailer’s permission, I want to post the discussion we had this week ---

Ted -
I am intensely aware of my desperate need for regular Sabbath, but it does not happen. My wheels never stop spinning...kids, house, errands, cooking, ministry. I feel the ocean of neediness that surrounds me is vast and never-ending. Yes, there are times when my kids are sources of joy and cooking is a delight rather than a duty, but for the most part my role-related responsibilities require full-time, seven-days-a-week work. The kids always require attention. People have to eat. Messes get made. There is always "mothering" that needs to be done. And (in case you were not aware) I am not energized by being a mom. Some women are, but I am not one of them. Mothering is hard work for me. And as you know, weekends are not time off for me. It's nice to have my husband’s help with the kids and the house on the weekends, but for the most part the same type of work is required of me on Saturdays and Sundays as is the rest of the week. Monday comes, and I've not stopped. So here is my question: What does it look like for someone in my shoes to have a Stop Day on a regular basis? How do I, as a full-time mother with children at home all week, take a day to stop? What would you suggest for me? How do I cease from my sources of stress and busy-ness?

It makes me feel a bit hopeless to think I can't incorporate a regular Sabbath in this season of my life, especially when it is in this season that I feel the ache for it most profoundly. My kids aren't going anywhere; the messes aren't going to magically stop; people still need to be fed and clothed and cared for. I want to change as a result of what you shared, but I need help figuring out how. I'd love to know your thoughts on this matter (or Jenifer's, if she has words of wisdom to share).

Friend -
Thanks again for emailing. On Sunday morning, I had added to the side of my notes to challenge husbands with young families to work with their wives to figure this whole thing out. For some reason, I didn't share that ... so, it is really great to know that the Spirit is at work in that. This is a huge issue, and something that Jenifer and I have talked about and still need to "flesh out".

Knowing that you are at a unique time of life and a unique person (i.e., what gives you rest is not what works for others) - you will have to get creative. In addition, the command for a Stop Day is really a command to stop from your life work - for you, managing the household. So, here are a few ideas that I'd challenge you to discuss with your husband. (not knowing what kinds of things you may or may not already do - here are some ideas)

1. Is there a time in the week when you could get away for an 4-5 hour chunk (half day on Saturday or an evening) where it wasn't for a ministry meeting or errands but just simply a time to sit at a coffee shop or some place that would be relaxing?
2. Since taking care of the family is your life work, it might make a lot of sense to choose a day where you don't cook or clean or run errands or do anything related to the managing of your house. Having your husband there to share the regular kid stuff would help but make sure you only eat food that is prepared beforehand or you order out. No laundry, no cleaning, no cooking - just have a day where regular duties are completely off limits. In addition, make it a priority that you won't take on other tasks that day except ones that are relational/relaxing/etc. Don't have dinner with someone you "need" to have dinner with - don't accept an opportunity to do things that are "work" of any kind.
3. If finances allow, hire a maid and babysitter to come for a half a day each week so that you can leave and have Stop Time and know that a huge task is taken off your plate.
4. This idea is more seasonal but still gets the STOP principle - get away for an overnight retreat with a couple of girlfriends where the only agenda is to hang out - not necessarily talk or have any agenda --- just quiet and being with God.

I realize that some of these ideas may not fit and they will all be things that you'll have to discuss with your husband. However, I'd love to hear your feedback.


The things you suggested are very practical, very real. It was nice to realize our family has already incorporated a couple of your ideas. Since we moved to our new house, my husband has already gone above and beyond what is expected and hired a housekeeper who cleans our house every other week. This alone has lifted a huge burden off of my shoulders...one for which I am continually thankful. Additionally, I have a monthly girls dinner club that offers me the huge gift of uninterrupted, child-free, adult-interaction with my closest friends. My husband always makes it easy for me to get away on those nights, and there is never the expectation for me to be home by a particular hour. But you are right in that it is the rest of my "life work" that needs to be turned off regularly. I think your suggestions are worth considering and integrating into our lives somehow.

Since I emailed you Monday I have been reading a few other resources that offer information and guidance about the Sabbath. They have reinforced the bit you said Sunday about not making the Sabbath a worldly "Me Day". I'm not supposed to honor the Sabbath because I've earned a day off, or am entitled to a weekly retreat just so I can catch my breath before I dive back into life. Nor is this about taking a day to find a better, more-organized me or indulge myself with things I like until I feel stronger or more able to handle my life. Rather, I am learning that the Sabbath needs to intentionally provide a Christ-centered, restful environment for my spirit to reflect on what God has done for me in the past six days, and a time when He has opportunity to reveal more of himself to me through delightful, peaceful, recreational activities. I love the picture of God resting on the seventh day simply because it was time to. Time to enjoy what had been made, to reflect on being rather than doing, to quit making things, to revel in the peace that comes from stopping. What a unique characteristic of our huge God...sovereignly ordaining a time to stop for nothing more than the sheer delight it brings. And then expecting us to do as He did. I love the freedom He provides for me in His example. I am desperate to write this into my life somehow and hungry to obey the command to honor Him with a Sabbath in order that my spirit may drink in more of Him and discover his idea of rest.

I will let you know how this develops in our life...thanks again for the follow-up.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pursuing Rest in God #2

by Ted Wueste

Pursuing Rest in God #2
by Ted Wueste

Here are a few more thoughts on Pursuing God through a STOP DAY or creating STOP moments in your life. The pace of life is generally too much for our souls, and living wisely (in light of that) requires intention. The following ideas come from Richard Swenson in his book Margin.

1. Expect the Unexpected. Nearly everything takes longer than expected - add an extra 20 percent time margin to your scheduled activities.
2. Learn to say no.
3. Turn off the television.
4. Prune the activity branches.
5. Separate time from technology. Try disconnecting from clocks, watches, alarms, cellphones, email for a day.
6. Schedule "free time" into your week.

For more details on these suggestions, pick up a copy of Swenson's book - pages 155-161

What has helped you pursue rest?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Pursuing Rest in God

Resting in Christ alone is a challenge and being intentional about a regular "Stop Day" (Sabbath) can be a huge challenge. Yet, making the decision to engage in "stop" disciplines is absolutely essential. I hope that this blog can serve as a discussion where we can interact - posting questions/responses/ideas/encouragements. I have several things that I'd like to post this week and likely will after Monday (my STOP DAY). For now, here are some thoughts on the two disciplines that I did not address this morning.

In Mark 1: 21-45, we see Jesus retreat from the crowds --- even Jesus engaged in disciplines ... Mark 1 (solitude)

Filtering out all the noise of life ... solitude.
Read Mark 1:21-45

What is solitude? Scheduling a time where you can experience isolation and be alone with God. One person said that it is a container discipline for all the other disciplines ... the point is to be alone - to retreat from the voices and demands. Go on a walk, get up early in the morning or stay up late, go to a park on your lunch break ... when we look at Mark 1, solitude is this:

- retreating so that we can refocus.

- retreating so that we can restructure our responses.

"We are so afraid of silence that we chase ourselves from one event to the next in order not to have to spend a moment alone with ourselves, in order not to have to look at ourselves in the mirror." Dietrich Bonhoeffer

In solitude, we look in the mirror and it can be painful but it is there that we find the environment for true healing and rest. When our lives are so addicted to the adrenaline rush of activity - of course, its hard to be quiet and alone ... it is only here that we begin to notice what God is doing in us - and what He wants to do in us.

Often this is very hard to do ... listen to this quote from Henri Nouwen: "Solitude doesn't mean we immediately shut out all our inner doubts, all our anxieties, fears, bad memories, unresolved conflicts, angry feelings, and impulsive desires. On the contrary, when we have removed our outer distractions, we often find that our inner distractions manifest themselves in us at full force. We often use the outer distractions to shield ourselves from the voices of our interior. It is thus not surprising that we have a difficult time being alone ... Solitude is not an instantaneous response to an occupied life. There are too many reasons for us not to be alone."
Finally - the discipline of simplicity ... it is the idea of:

Structuring my life around reality ... simplicity.
Philippians 4:11-12

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want." (Phil 4:11-12)

This is the art of letting go ... saying goodbye to our attachment to possessions --- this discipline reminds us that He is all we need. How do we do this?

- Assess what makes life complicated & simplify/eliminate
- Downsize possessions
- Downsize activities
- Cut back on discretionary spending; start to give more away
- Intentionally do things that cost no money

More, later this week but please discuss/question/respond!

Dr. Ted Wueste